The Kid (1921)

Movie review by
Fiona Maloney-M..., Common Sense Media
The Kid (1921) Movie Poster Image
Timeless silent film blends humor with hardship.
  • NR
  • 1921
  • 68 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 2+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Unlike many of Chaplin's other films, this one has no overt political or social critique at work. The Tramp exposes some of the hardships of poverty as he scrambles to make his way in life and speaks to the power of an adoptive father-son bond, but there's no overarching lesson to be had. The film does present a few intermittent and subtle teaching moments -- a title card reads "Charity -- to some a duty, to others a joy," and the Tramp's dream sequence shows sins such as jealousy and lewdness corrupting an otherwise peaceful world. The film's focus, though, rests on the relationship between the Tramp and his adoptive son, which is a touching story even if it's not an extremely teachable one. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Tramp stands out as a timelessly endearing character, one who likely will worm his way into new viewers' affections and continue to charm those already familiar with Chaplin's work. Although his intentions often are for the best, the Tramp gets caught up in actions that don't model positive behaviors -- always, of course, for the sake of humor. He involves his adopted son in petty crime and a street fight, and, when he first discovers the kid as an abandoned baby, he tries to get rid of him, too. The negative behaviors can easily be forgotten in the midst of the laughs they create, though, and the Tramp does take the kid in and raise him wholeheartedly as his own. 

Violence & Scariness

Violence arises as a tool of the film's physically based slapstick humor and is more cartoon-like than realistic. There are plenty of physical altercations -- mostly fistfights -- and, in one instance, two children beat each other up while a watching crowd cheers. Objects such as an umbrella, a ceramic bowl, and a hammer are used to "injure" others, and a policeman attempts to choke the Tramp. All these instances are somehow related to the gag at hand and are used to generate laughs despite their -- at face value -- more serious nature. As part of the Tramp's dream, he gets shot out of the sky by the policeman -- a brief and rare moment that doesn't hold much humor. 

Sexy Stuff

The Tramp briefly flirts with a policeman's wife before getting chased away. During a dream sequence, a woman is instructed by the devil to "vamp" the Tramp and subsequently attempts to draw him in by winking and exposing her ankle. 

Language

Though the film is silent and no risky language technically can be heard, at one point an inter-title reads "Awkward ass!" as someone (off-screen) shouts at the Tramp. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Tramp is sometimes pictured smoking, though it's not emphasized and fits with the historical context. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Kid is Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length release, a silent picture from 1921. The film chronicles another episode in the life of his famous character, the Tramp, who this time finds an abandoned baby and decides to raise it as his own. It contains plenty of violence, used as a tool of Chaplin's physical slapstick humor -- lots of punches are thrown, objects are used to compromise others, and struggles and chases ensue. All these elements succeed in achieving their goal of laughs, however, and the exaggerated nature of the conflicts makes them seem silly and humorous rather than scary or realistic. Beneath the comedy, there are definitely some more serious thematic elements at work -- most significantly a child being traumatically separated from a parent. In that regard, the opening title proves to be true: "A picture with a smile -- and perhaps, a tear." Since it's silent, the film may hold little interest for kids who aren't able to get on board with the absence of dialog. But for those who are able to appreciate Chaplin's work -- and there is definitely plenty to appreciate -- the film is truly a piece of history, offering a glimpse into days past, along with -- of course -- many laughs. 

User Reviews

Parent of a 5, 7, and 10 year old Written byDeniseArts October 30, 2016

Should be on every ten best list for kids

Our family saw this recently, and we laughed and cried and absolutely loved it. Yes, it's a silent film (with music), but the kids can read the 'titl... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old October 28, 2017

no dry eye left behind

pure amazing. the first dramedy (drama and comedy) is incredibly important and original and also Charlie Chaplin's first directing outing and it's gre... Continue reading

What's the story?

A single mother, faced with raising her infant son alone, chooses to abandon him in the back of a fancy automobile, thinking he will find a better life in someone else's care. But when the car gets stolen by two thugs who leave the baby on a street corner, abandoned once again, the kid begins a life his mother never anticipated. This time it's the Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) who discovers the child (played by then child-star Jackie Coogan), and, when he can't find anyone to hand the baby off to, he takes it in as his own. Five years down the line, the two are a certifiable father-son pair with an inseparable bond, but, when the news gets out that the Tramp is not the kid's real father, their life together is placed in danger.

Is it any good?

In the modern age of voice-over and extreme close-ups, the silent medium offers a refreshing take on filmmaking, and viewers willing to try something they're not used to will be paid back in full. The very physical edge to Chaplin's slapstick humor relies on acting with the entire body, and as he and his costars attempt to communicate a story without the use of dialogue, the resulting style achieves a kind of genuineness that almost doesn't seem possible with sound. In these full-body shots, Chaplin's agility is on display as well -- as he dodges punches and climbs across rooftops, his gracefulness is almost shocking. But it nearly goes unnoticed in light of the jokes it serves to produce -- for yes, all these years later, the raw humor Chaplin creates is still very funny. It wouldn't be untrue to say that these elements arise in every film Chaplin made, but that's no problem -- in fact, it's welcome. For therein lies the magic of the Chaplin style and the certainty that the Tramp will continue to delight audiences for years to come. 

For many, questioning the quality of a Chaplin film seems almost humorous. History speaks for itself: he iconic Tramp character, whose oddball attempts to integrate himself into society have made viewers laugh and cry for decades, has solidified himself as one of the most timeless images in Hollywood history. And he's no exception in THE KID. Even in his first feature-length appearance, Chaplin (who wrote, directed, produced, starred in, and composed the score for the film) seems to leap off the screen with his endearing, larger-than-life persona. The Tramp, as he confronts very real struggles and makes very human mistakes, truly manages to transcend time, speaking to the universal quirkiness and naivety of the human spirit, and the underlying earnestness and sincerity of the film shines through. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Tramp as a parent -- what does he do right, and what does he do wrong? 

  • Families also can discuss the stylistic aspects of the film. What are the biggest changes between filmmaking in the early days of Hollywood and filmmaking now? What do you think of the film being silent? Is there anything that silent films provide that "talking" pictures can't?

  • What do you think of the way the Tramp makes a living, and what kind of morals does he seem to have? As an outsider, how does he relate to other members of society?

  • How is violence used in the film? What do you think of mixing it with humor? 

Movie details

For kids who love classics

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