SAFETY LAST and WHY WORRY are funnier, GIRL SHY sweeter and more exciting, but the deft combination of gags, action, plot, poignant moments, outstanding photography and a warm, pastoral setting makes THE KID BROTHER Harold Lloyd's best overall film. As usual, he is never as fascinating as Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, but the film itself is a Lloyd masterpiece. Everything that is great about Harold Lloyd can be found in this one film.
Don't expect to be overwhelmed with gags and action sequences as in SAFETY LAST - THE KID BROTHER is not that kind of a comedy. It is a story-driven film in which the gags spring naturally from the situations. Lloyd plays Harold Hickory, the youngest brother in a motherless family of muscle-bound country folk. Because Harold uses his brains rather than his muscles, he is considered the useless runt of the family by his pa and two brothers and is left out of all family decisions. Yet, as always in Lloyd films, he comes through in the end to save the day, in this case, recovering some stolen money before the townsfolk lynch his unjustly accused father. The story is strong enough to sustain a nearly 90-minute running time, but not so densely plotted as to hamper Lloyd from dropping in several lengthy and outstanding gag sequences. In a twist for Lloyd, his quest is not about proving himself to the girl he loves (Jobyna Ralston, never lovelier) but rather showing his own father and brothers that he is worthy to be called a Hickory. There are reminders of Chaplin in some moments of pathos, as well as Keaton in some Rube Goldberg-style gags, but the film itself is all Lloyd. It even ends with a knowing reprise of a "bully beating" sequence from his first feature film GRANDMA'S BOY.
Lloyd would make one more very good silent film (SPEEDY) before succumbing to the newfangled "talking pictures", which makes THE KID BROTHER even more poignant. The same year Lloyd released THE KID BROTHER, a near-perfect silent comedy, the success of the partial-talkie THE JAZZ SINGER would set in motion the eventual demise of the silent movie all together. - JB