The Kid (1921)
Yes! Watch this! Watch this with your family and weep tears of joy! Unrated!
My kids screwed me up, guys. Before my daughter was born, I'd roll my eyes at kids in peril. "Grow up," I'd shout. "Stop being kids. The world has no time for you!" Then my daughter was born and my heart is now mush. Sad kid? Fix him, Charlie Chaplin! Fix him!
I am cheapening all of cinema with this comment, but this movie was Big Daddy before there was a Big Daddy. (I read that sentence and it came off worse than I actually planned.) Chaplin's Tramp finds an orphan child and chaos ensues. In many ways, the Chaplin films all hit the same major points. He deals with the lighter side of poverty, bumping up against bullies and authority in zany and hilarious ways. It only makes sense that adding a child to the formula would enhance the story.
Part of what makes Chaplin great is that he rarely goes for laughs exclusively. There is a satirical quality to the film that is poignant and relatable. Chaplin's definition of family is what sells the story to become something far greater than the zany comedy of the Keystone Cop era. Chaplin and Jackie Coogan seem like a genuine father / son pairing. I know that Chaplin himself was a tortured individual and the idea of making such a painful film is in many ways bizarre. The creation of this film also seems contrary to the message that the film is trying to get across. Chaplin, in his autobiography, admits to having Coogan's real father threaten young Coogan with being shipped off to a workhouse if he didn't cry. The tears are effective and my heart is crushed to know this piece of cinematic history.
This movie very nearly jumped into my top 10. Near tears constantly, the vacillation between heartbreaking sympathy and gutbusting laughter is an effective duo. This movie is about pain and catharsis placed on repeat. Perhaps the only thing that limits the movie is the very odd dream sequence ending. I'm not sure what caused Chaplin to go with such a safe ending, but I find it odd that he couldn't give the Tramp a son. The way I understand it, there was little continuity between films. Yet, Chaplin gave himself an out by returning the child to his biological and now successful mother. Yes, it is a happy ending, but it also feels somewhat cheap.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.