Continuing its mission to suck the essence out of every English literary classic, Tinseltown's latest victim is Daniel Defoe's bawdy Moll Flanders. Not only has the book been juiced, but it's been reconstituted as insipid squash.
In fact, the only thing in Densham's screenplay that bears any relation to the novel is the title. Everything else is a murky soup of costume-drama clichés, mixed artlessly with ideas (or soggy croutons, if you feel like dragging out the metaphor) from Henry Fielding, Hogarth and anybody else the screenwriter could think of. This Moll does bear a passing resemblance to Defoe's original tart-with-a-heart, but most of her grubby adventures (artist's model, auctioned whorehouse virgin, seeker of long-lost child) are entirely the product of Densham's infertile imagination. But then, what can you expect from the writer of Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves and the producer of The Outer Limits? This is a movie neither for Austenites nor historical-adventure buffs.
""Inspired by"", rather than ""adapted from"" the novel, this Moll suggests that no-one on the movie picked up the relevant York Notes, let alone read the original story. Cleavage counts are low, and those hoping for a crazed, comic, '90s-style Tom Jones - the Albert Finney romp movie, not the Welsh chest wig - - should stay at home. Once again, it seems that Hollywood is incapable of grasping simple ideas like wit, irony and satire. There are some funny moments, certainly (take Moll's deflowering by a doddery old codger in a pair of long johns), but not one truly corset-splitting belly laugh.
Robin Wright (Forrest Gump's wayward love, Jenny) plays her Moll as plain, handsome and stubbornly honest, although her forced East End accent makes you yearn for the saucy smile and wicked wit of TV Moll Alex Kingston. Wright's Flanders is hardly hot on feminine wiles, although she's quickly educated by Mrs Allworthy (played much truer to the Defoe ideal by Stockard Channing) in the use of her most deadly weapons. All two of them. Mrs A's snippets of wisdom (""When men's parts go hard, their brains go soft"") almost redeem the proceedings, but this is ultimately a bodice-ripper without the rip. Ho hum.