The Academy Award-winning director of another biopic, Gandhi (1982), Richard Attenborough reveals his obvious reverence for the iconoclastic Charlie Chaplin in this critically if not commercially successful film. Robert Downey Jr., who trained for over a year to replicate Chaplin's English cockney accent, tics, and rhythm as well as his graceful balletic and athletic movements, physical humor, and posture, gives the star-making performance of his career and is riveting to watch as he brings to life one of the most influential people in the history of cinema. The film is a thoughtful mixture of melancholy and humor, juxtaposing Chaplin's private loneliness and loss with his professional comedic talents and fortitude. Spanning a period of nearly 80 years in the actor's life, the film has been criticized for trying to cover too much narrative ground, but given the enormity of Chaplin's contribution to his art and the personal obstacles he overcame, this is an enjoyable, emotional, and authentic film. From its rural Hollywood locations in the early 1900s and demonstration of early moviemaking techniques to its superb cast, Chaplin is a potent tribute to a gifted cinematic artist.
by Lisa Kropiewnicki review