The Monster (1994)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Errors, Farce  |   Release Date - Apr 19, 1996 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - France, Italy  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Those wondering about the origins of the comic first act of Roberto Benigni's acclaimed La Vita E Bella (Life is Beautiful) need look no further than Il Mostro (The Monster) for a taste of his slapstick sensibilities carried through an entire picture. This breezy farce, in which an ordinary fellow (Benigni) is mistaken for a mass murderer, demonstrates Benigni's knack for physical comedy and manic self-expression that extends back a lot further than his memorable Oscar acceptance speeches. It's also clear, especially in scenes where Benigni walks along in the squatted position, mimicking a rare posture disease as a means of evading the police, that the actor/director was inspired by the great silent comedians. Giving an equally deft performance is Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni's wife and frequent collaborator. Perhaps because of its slight subject matter, Il Mostro did not reach a wide audience outside of Benigni's Italian homeland, where it was quite popular. Considered as a forerunner to La Vita E Bella -- and taken in conjunction with the fact that Benigni had starred in frivolous fare like Son of the Pink Panther -- Il Mostro helps contextualize why Bella was considered such a mature accomplishment for a filmmaker who had specialized in broad comedy.