DVD Review – Chaplin

Lately I’ve been on a “classic” movie kick. So, to expand my “classics” library (and to feed my crush on Robert Downey Jr.) I watched “Chaplin.” I know little about the real Chaplin except the obvious, that he was undoubtedly one of the most influential physical comedians of early film and that he preferred silent movies to “talkies.” “Chaplin” was made in 1992, and is synonymous with the Iron Man actor, which peeked my interest in it. “Chaplin” had me stop everything and received my full attention - it’s that good. Based on Chaplin’s real autobiography and with an incredible line up of actors (including Chaplin’s own daughter Geraldine Chaplin portraying Chaplin’s mother), it’s a movie made with all the necessary aspects of great movie making.

- The Narrative – Told mostly in flashback while Chaplin (Downey) is refining his autobiography with fictional editor played by Anthony Hopkins, he reminisces about everything from being a small child and his first experience performing, to working with his brother, to Vaudeville, to moving to America. The flashback storytelling is effective because it provides an opportunity to bring the audience back to “real time” with Chaplin’s running commentary on his life.

- The Entire Cast – I know I do this a lot, but it really impresses me when such a long list of well established actors come together for one project. So here’s the amazing line up that made “Chaplin”: Robert Downey Jr, Moira Kelly, Geraldine Chaplin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Kline, Penelope Ann Miller, Marisa Tomei, Nancy Travis, James Woods, Diane Lane, Kevin Dunn, Milla Jovovich, David Duchovny, and Michael A. Goorjian!

- The Visuals – Although the movie was released in 1992, the creators did a remarkable job of recreating the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s. They show us what movie studios looked like, what the trains were like and (my favorite) the clothes!

- Robert Downey Jr. – You can’t have a Pros list about this movie without mentioning its star. I don’t think you can mention RDJ without mentioning this movie. Anyone can pull off a “Neo” or the fast driving, cliché spouting drift enthusiast, but to portray a real person is the true test of an actor and their capabilities.

- Old Chaplin – The movie goes between present time and Chaplin’s memories. While in present time, the makeup and voice used to portray the famous man are not very subtle or realistic, but more distracting than anything else.

- Unnecessary Nudity – Adding to my list of movie pet peeves is nakedness that isn’t necessary. The beginning of the movie shows Chaplin working in a Vaudeville theater and he helps his co-performers, women, zip up. The door to their dressing room is wide open so the women are seen in all their…I’m not sure “glory” is the right word.

“Chaplin” is a well-put together picture that helps those of us who may not be familiar with the innovative movie maker – more familiar with his influence and dedication to the industry. “Chaplin” is a movie that can be appreciated for many different things: the writing, its pace, production quality and, of course, the acting. For me, only seeing it recently, it’s a diamond in the rough during a time of sequels and explosions as the boring norm. It’s a biopic that showcases the hard work of one of the movie industries’ leading men portrayed by one of the modern movie industries leading men.

What did you think about “Chaplin?” Is it Robert Downey Jr.’s best film? His best performance? Is the movie even appealing these days since Chaplin’s (the man) hey days were over quite some time ago?

"Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

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