Plot: A new mother finds herself pushed past the brink and unable to care for her child, she places the newborn inside a fancy car, with a note and a plea for the baby to be cared for. But when the car is stolen, the crooks discover the wrapped infant and leave it in a dank alley, next to some garbage cans. The newborn isn’t alone for long however, as a tramp (Charlie Chaplin) happens to pass by and notices the child, then tries to find a new home, with no luck. His attempts even land him on the wrong side of a police officer, so he decides perhaps he can raise the child himself, even though his station is humble, to say the least. But can a simple tramp manage to raise a child alone and what does the future hold for this unlikely tandem?
Entertainment Value: After immense success with comedy shorts, Charlie Chaplin took a substantial risk and pushed into the feature film realm with The Kid, a gamble that more than paid off. The movie runs under an hour in duration, but packs in more laughs and heart than most films could in twice that time, as Chaplin makes every scene count and there is no filler in this one. Even a late scene that feels surreal and a touch out of place manages to weave into the main narrative, so Chaplin didn’t play it safe, but he did go for broke to make The Kid stand out. The pace is brisk, as you can imagine, but it still takes the time to develop the characters and get you invested in the narrative, which is no small feat. Chaplin also ensures the emotional beats resonate, so while there is ample humor involved, The Kid also has a lot of heart and works on both levels, again not a simple task. The movie earns those emotional spikes, with the character development and Chaplin does all this within the silent film framework, so despite the lack of dialogue, there is plenty of depth here. This might have been his first feature length effort, but Chaplin’s cinematic genius is on full showcase and for anyone who appreciates masterful movies, The Kid is highly recommended.
Although his immense skill as both writer and director are clearly demonstrated here, Charlie Chaplin also shines in front the camera here. He had mastered his tramp role by this point and he really delivers on the comedic elements, with hilarious physical humor and the kind of keen timing that allows a subtle facial expression to earn laughs, he is just a comic genius and it shows. This isn’t just pratfalls and silly faces, but creative and inventive humor that finds Chaplin using all kinds of scenarios to find laughs, even in the smallest, simplest scenes, he uncovers some humor. The dream sequence is a perfect example of his talents, as it is such an odd scene in some ways, but so intricate and creative, you can’t help but smile. Then he weaves it all back into the emotional threads of the narrative, simply masterful work. He has terrific chemistry with Jackie Coogan, who performs well and manages to keep pace with Chaplin most of the time, which is a real compliment. The cast of The Kid also includes Edna Purviance, Carl Miller, and even Jack Coogan, Sr.