Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Kid (1921)

            The Little Tramp is now a father? The nerve of it all! It is amusing yet frustrating to find comedies about dads because they always seem to be about giving some random movie star bachelor a baby and praying nothing catches fire. The Kid is probably the film that started this clich├ęd storyline yet there is still magic to be found in this ancient comedy. Clocked at almost an hour, The Kid is one of Charlie Chaplin’s shortest yet more accomplished films, which shows him fully developing that complex mix of comedy and empathy that would make him so beloved. 
            The film admittedly begins like a horrific melodrama, a poor single mother leaves her infant son in a the backseat of an expensive car, which is then stolen by two carjackers, who then discover the crying baby and then leave him in a garbage filled alley. One could forget that they are watching a comedy before the Little Tramp even shows up. Shocking prologue aside, the film itself revolves around a series of set pieces of the Tramp as a single father and the charming hijinks between him and his newly adopted son. Their lives are shown to be difficult as the Tramp struggles to feed each other but his ingenuity reveals some hilarious brilliance. Who knew a kettle could be made into a durable milk bottle? The film gets even better when it jumps forward to when the baby turns five, becoming Jackie Coogan, who is a goofy little straight man for Chaplin. They are both partners-in-crime and father-and-son, which is both endearing and fun to watch.
            There is also a subtle grace to Chaplin that not only makes the Tramp believable as a father but also a good one at that. This grace can be found in quiet moments like when he makes sure the Kid doesn’t hurt himself when he licks maple syrup from a knife during breakfast or when cleans his face before work. Within the comical mugging is a patient, caring and loving father figure who would devote his entire life just to see this kid live well. The Tramp could be a charming bum or a goofy accountant, but the character and the film would be empty schmaltz without these qualities. While The Kid is not as elaborate or cohesive Chaplin’s later works like The Gold Rush or Modern Times, this is a uniquely beautiful film that stands among his best comedies. Father’s Day or not, The Kid is a must see for those how love good family comedies.

            For Dad, a goofy accountant, patient enough to deal with my weird obsession with the movies.

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