A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids will laugh themselves silly at the slapstick antics of Charlie Chaplin. Though younger ones (6-8) may not appreciate the heavy themes of the film, those moments will have a strong impact on 'tweens. Chaplin gets himself into dangerous situations -- such as driving drunk and mishandling of a pistol -- but always gets out safely. Kids may want to imitate Chaplin's acrobatic slapstick. The film contains depictions of suicidal depression and society's unfairness at judging people solely on their wealth.
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What's the story?
Mistaken for a wealthy man, the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) becomes the unlikely benefactor of a blind flower girl, and goes to great lengths not to reveal the charade. The Tramp saves the life of an actual wealthy man, who drunkenly declares him a friend for life. The new friend gives him enough money to buy all of the girl's flowers, which furthers her grand notions about him. The sober dawn awakens a different man, however. When his wealthy friend fails to recognize him, the Tramp is stripped of his finery and escorted roughly from the premises. Destitute and shabby, he finds that he must win the blind girl's affections on his own, and come up with a way to pay for the operation that will allow her to see him for who he really is.
Is it any good?
For adults who want to show children a purer form of comedy, CITY LIGHTS is your movie. This sweet but comic slapstick classic shows Charlie Chaplin deceiving a blind flower girl to gain her love. It is an extraordinarily fun movie for kids, and a valuable one. If they've never seen a silent film, they'll be impressed. And as for good lessons, kids may learn that appearances can be deceptive, and a man with nothing to his name can be as honorable, as much of a gentleman, as a millionaire can.
As an actor, Chaplin is a marvel, conveying astonishing emotional depth through the silent antics of his little tramp. As a director, he demonstrates an impeccable sense of timing with difficult, gracefully choreographed stunts. The entire family may bust a collective gut watching him skitter across a slippery dance floor, or outmaneuver an imposing boxing opponent, but then be rendered speechless by the poignant ending. To blink while watching is to miss something. Like Modern Times, another Chaplin masterpiece, this film touches on some sensitive issues, but doesn't become weighed down by them. A morose drunk man makes repeated suicide attempts, although the audience never feels there's any danger of his success. As for the example the tramp sets by posing as a wealthy man to win a blind girl's favor, it's dishonest but also an act of nobility, of selflessness because he wants to help her even though he himself has nothing.
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