(Review originally written at 3 May 2006)

The story was absolutely captivating. It was very interesting to learn more about the life of perhaps the worlds greatest and most known comedian of the 20th century.

I like slapstick humor, so naturally I also have a great interest in Charlie Chaplin and his movies. It was interesting to see in this movie who the man behind the tramp was, what drove him and what his motivations were for making certain movies during his career. This movie really gave me the feeling that I now know who Charles Chaplin was and it not only makes me understand him more but also his movies.

The movie perfectly captures the atmosphere and the atmosphere in the movie business in the early 20th century. The movie has a great style and some great looking costumes, settings and props. Also the musical score by John Barry is quite good and perhaps also a bit underrated.

But still I have some issues with this movie. The movie takes to big jumps at times and at times its unclear what has happened in between. Too many things happened in the movie without explaining why or how they happened. It's understandable, since this is a biopic that follows the lifespan of a man for over about 80 years. So of course the movie has to make some big leaps in time, in order to not make this movie an 4 hour long one. Still a bit better editing and storytelling could have prevented some problems with the movie and its story.

The movie mainly focuses on the bad aspects of Chaplin's life which makes his life seem more dreadful and depressing than it might had been in real life. Still it was a brave and good choice of the movie to mainly focus on the negative aspects. Comedian's lives are often depressing and joyless. And if the movie only focuses on the cheerful good elements of Chaplin's life this movie would had been an overpraising one. Now instead Chaplin is portrayed as an understandable and realistic human being.

Another issue I had with the movie was its cast. Robert Downey Jr. is an unlikely choice for Chaplin but he acts really great and he becomes the characters through his acting, so no problem there. But the rest of the movie feels like a celebrity overkill. All of the other characters don't really play a prominent enough role in the movie, so why are they portrayed by so many such well known actors? This often is the case in Richard Attenborough movies (like "A Bridge Too Far" and to some extend also "Gandhi".) and this probably is the one thing that disturbs me most about Attenborough as a director. There are lots of well known big name actors in the movie such as Anthony Hopkins, Geraldine Chaplin (who plays her own grandmother in this movie), John Thaw, James Woods, Nancy Travis, Milla Jovovich, Kevin Kline, Marisa Tomei, Dan Aykroyd, Diane Lane, Penelope Ann Miller, David Duchovny, Paul Rhys, Maria Pitillo. All great actors but what are they doing in this movie? Most of them only work distracting and their characters in the movie are so small that it seems pointless that they are being played by such big stars. Please stop putting so many well known actors in one movie Sir Richard Attenborough, it serves no purpose for the movie and its story and it perhaps only works distracting.

Still the movie was always interesting and good enough for me to make me keep watching it. It's a good biopic that provides us a good view into the life and personality of Charles Chaplin, the man behind the tramp. It could had been a masterpiece but unfortunately the movie is a bit too flawed and filled with some missed opportunities to consider this movie a real masterpiece.


About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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