The Circus (1928)
Directed by Charlie Chaplin

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * *

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A tramp (Charlie Chaplin) lucks into a job working at a circus and soon becomes its main attraction. Meanwhile, he falls in love with the daughter of the circus' abusive owner, is saddened when she becomes infatuated with a handsome tightrope walker, and has various adventures.

Charlie Chaplin's The Circus is a fun, frenetic film. While it is neither sophisticated nor realized with any real sensitivity, the movie is so filled with countless silly, lowbrow stunts and skits that it is always entertaining.

The story Chaplin tells in The Circus is completely forgettable, but its being so never detracts from the movie's quality as it apparently exists only to provide excuses for the numerous burlesque routines the actor performs. Over the course of the movie, Chaplin walks a tightrope while being assaulted by a troop of monkeys, is trapped inside a lion's cage, is chased by policemen through a maze of mirrors, performs sketches with clowns, and so on and so on. Fortunately, these innumerable skits and stunts with which the film is absolutely packed, while always simple and often puerile, are nearly all both charming and delightful. Consequently, even though the story in which they are set may be uninteresting and often painfully maudlin, they are able to infuse the movie with a wonderful sense of lighthearted happiness.

Because it is so completely dominated by such routines, watching the film actually feels more like going to a circus or to a local fair than like viewing a movie. Apart from children's animated programs and other silent comedies, there are few films or television productions that are similar to The Circus. That said, the movie does incorporate all the non-stop antics and broad physical humor of a cartoon. Happily, although The Circus may not have any more complexity or artistic merit than does the average "Looney Tunes" episode, it is certainly as enjoyable as is any such program. In fact, the movie really is a pleasure to watch.

Review by Keith Allen

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