A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie based on Chaplin's autobiography focuses on the great comic's life events, rather than his talent. Some aspects of his life are sad and disturbing, such as his mother's devolution into madness. Expect non-sexual female nudity and social drinking, plus references to women as "bitches," reflecting the inequality of the time.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
This sweeping biopic follows the great comedic figure's life as told by an elderly Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.) to the editor of his autobiography (Anthony Hopkins). Eventually making his way to America, using his pratfalls and vaudeville comedic acts to impress producers, viewers see how Charlie Chaplin became the world's biggest star before he reached 30 years of age. But as he ages in the movie, Chaplin is haunted by the feeling that his work was never truly worthwhile. When he sticks his neck out politically, making a spoof of Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator, he catches the unwanted attention of the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover (Kevin Dunn), who eventually engineered the artist's exile.
Is it any good?
Though Robert Downey Jr.'s age-defying portrayal of the comic genius is spot-on, the overall movie meanders vaguely through the actor's life. Scenes depicting the depression years and Chaplin's return to London border on schmaltz. But the last scene, where an elderly Chaplin accepts an honorary Academy Award, ends the movie with dignity. See this one if you are a fan of Robert Downey Jr., but if you like Charlie Chaplin, you might prefer seeing his own movies instead.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to be famous. How did Charlie's life change from his days in London to those in Hollywood? How did the public react when he expressed his political views? Was he unfairly targeted? How did he use humor to raise awareness? How is that done today?
- In theaters: October 16, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: October 14, 2008
- Cast: Kevin Kline, Penelope Ann Ann Miller, Robert Downey Jr.
- Director: Richard Attenborough
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: nudity and language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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