May 31, 2014

Review: The Kid (1921)

Cinema has changed immensely since the silent movie era. New technologies have made a lot of new things possible but that doesn't take away from what movie makers back then were able to accomplish with such rudimentary equipment. Charlie Chaplin was one of the early masters of the day and I have a confession. This is my very first Charlie Chaplin movie. I've never even seen a single one of his shorts. I've got a few Buster Keaton movies under my belt but my silent movie experience doesn't expand much beyond that. I've been hanging my head for a while now but I'm glad that I've finally seen a Chaplin movie.

The way I see it, you have to be in a different mind set when watching a silent movie versus a more modern talkie. The thing about The Kid though, is that it's not even necessary to do that. The humour still works really well, the sad moments genuinely get you in the heart and it's really well produced. The location, the sets and the costumes look amazing and it's the type of movie you could watch over and over again. It's an immortal film that is on one hand digestible for everyone but also well crafted and intelligent.


Genre: comedy, drama, family
Directed by: Charlie Chaplin
Produced by: Charlie Chaplin
Written by: Charlie Chaplin
Music by: Charlie Chaplin
Running time: 68 minutes
Production company: Charles Chaplin Productions
Distributed by: First National Pictures, Western Import Company, Max Gl├╝cksmann, etc.
Country: United States
Language: Silent
Budget: $250,000
Box office: $5,450,000 (United States)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Coogan, Edna Purviance, Carl Miller, Tom Wilson, Henry Bergman, Charles Reisner, Raymond Lee, Lita Grey, Jules Hanft, Frank Campeau, F. Blinn, Edith Wilson, Jack Coogan, Silas Hathaway, Granville Redmond



The Kid opens with a poor woman having given birth to a boy. She's unable to take care of her baby because of the fact that she had him out of wedlock and is also very poor. She wanders into a rich neighborhood and decides to leave her boy in a parked car in the hopes that he be taken in by a rich family. The plan backfires and the boy eventually finds himself in the care of a tramp (Charlie Chaplin).


What The Kid excels at is its combination of humour and drama. It advertises as much with its opening title card that reads "A picture with a smile-and perhaps, a tear." The jokes are funny in large part to Charlie Chaplin's masterful slapstick comedy talents. His tramp character while tragic is able to still have a sense of humour about things and he does his best to provide for his adopted sidekick.

I was floored at how hard hitting the emotional moments were in The Kid. I'm talking getting shivers here. The visuals have to be memorable to make up for the lack of sound and the movie does just that. The Kid doesn't need sound to be as good as it is.

There doesn't seem to be a single scene that is unnecessary. There's a bizarre dream sequence that seems a bit out of place but it's still an amusing moment. Given that it's 1921, the "effects" are simple but very well done. There's some wire usage but I don't see any wires! Good thing they didn't shoot in HD back then.

Charlie Chaplin is without a doubt a comedic genius. The guy just oozes comedy while he walks around duck-footed in his tattered clothes. Jackie Coogan also does great work as the tramp's sidekick. His moments of happiness and sadness hit hard. Real hard. Acting seems a bit exaggerated at times but that's how it was back then. Audiences were not as used to movies as we are now and needed to be heavily guided so they could understand what was going on. 

The Kid is the silent movie to show to people you know who refuse to watch silent movies. It's a shame that a movie would ever be written off for being silent but an exception for The Kid has to be made. I'm still reeling from how wonderful The Kid really is. It has aged extremely well and anyone from a kid and up can understand it.  I'm glad that I can finally say that I've seen a Charlie Chaplin movie.



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