The Kid

The Kid ★★★★

Slighter and less narratively complex than Chaplin's later work, The Kid still impresses in other respects.

I feel like we often overlook Chaplin's supporting players, especially how attentive his direction is in incorporating them into the gag. Obviously, Chaplin has mentored Coogan carefully, training him to carefully mimic many of The Tramp's regular physical quirks. But Chaplin is also generous enough to give laugh moments to other supporting actors, like the bully brother or even a bit part like the pickpocket in the homeless shelter. These are roles that require the actor to carefully coordinate their body with Chaplin's, a choreography that he has polished as a director as well as trusted his co-stars to pull off.

Watching The Kid I also thought about when Chaplin chooses to address the camera with his eyes. These moments are carefully selected, bringing the audience into the situation while also diminishing the spectre of threat. For instance, early on, The Tramp briefly considers dropping baby John down a sewer grate. Chaplin looks at the grate, then the baby, then the camera, acknowledging the despicableness of the act by likewise acknowledging the audience's judgemental gaze. That direct address both softens a grim idea for a laugh and humanizes The Tramp by showing his moral code.

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