Chaplin: 15th Anniversary Edition Richard Attenborough

Chaplin: 15th Anniversary Edition Richard Attenborough
Released in time to cash in on his Iron Man superstardom, Chaplin: 15th Anniversary Edition (although the movie was released in 1992) offers a chance to revisit Robert Downey Jr.’s first (and, so far, only) Oscar-nominated role. As Charlie Chaplin, Downey has the difficult task of portraying 60 years of the Little Tramp’s life, from his early days in the British music hall to his movie stardom through his exile to Switzerland. Downey is extraordinarily convincing throughout, capturing the graceful clown of the silent screen, the serious-minded director and the Hollywood aristocrat. If only the rest of the movie were so good. With such a long and eventful life to cram into 135 minutes, director Richard Attenborough hurriedly runs through Chaplin’s milestones as if striking them off a checklist. Structured like a series of sketches, the screenplay has all the depth of a Wikipedia article. The all-star cast (which includes Kevin Kline, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Diane Lane and even Geraldine Chaplin, as her own grandmother) is game but their roles are too half-baked to make much of an impression. Perhaps Attenborough should have concentrated on a smaller portion of Chaplin’s life, like his childhood years, which are the most vivid and evocative sections of the film. According to IMDb, the original cut of Chaplin was four hours long, and Attenborough was obligated to trim at least 12 minutes from his final cut against his will, yet this so-called anniversary edition contains none of the excised material. That’s a shame, because the deleted scenes might have helped flesh out Attenborough’s sketchy vision. Three new documentaries total only 20 minutes, and a three-minute Chaplin home movie will only interest die-hard fans. It’s interesting to hear Attenborough frankly acknowledge the film’s flaws in the extras but this disc is a botched opportunity to improve a botched film. (Maple)