22 November 2012 9:11 AM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Robert Downey Jr sparkles as the British comedy giant but Richard Attenborough's film feels somewhat dutiful around him

Director: Richard Attenborough

Entertainment grade: C+

History grade: B+

Charlie Chaplin was a British comedian who became one of the earliest and greatest stars of Hollywood cinema.

Childhood

The film begins with Chaplin's grim childhood in Victorian London, complete with an absentee father, a mentally ill mother (played by Geraldine Chaplin, the granddaughter of the real thing) and a stint in the workhouse. One night, when his mother sings in a music-hall show, her voice fails. Five-year-old Charlie is brought on to replace her. His precociously adorable performance brings the house down. Much though this rise-to-fame story sounds too good to be true, it is what Chaplin described in his autobiography.

Love

In adulthood, Chaplin is played by Robert Downey Jr. The film makes a big deal of the 19-year-old »

- Alex von Tunzelmann

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