As Chaplin puts it in the first intertitle, THE KID is "A picture with a smile, and perhaps a tear." It is Chaplin's most melodramatic feature, with Chaplin finding an abandoned baby, raising him as his own son, and then losing him to the authorities, at least until the inevitable tear-jerking reunion. But it is also one of Chaplin's most appealing films, owing to the extraordinary chemistry between Chaplin and his protegé, the astonishingly talented Jackie Coogan. Much of the film is devoted to comical sequences of Chaplin making a home for the boy and teaching him how to survive in the streets. But even when the story turns serious, Chaplin never lets THE KID get mawkish or maudlin for too long. Moments after the boy is discovered to be extremely ill, Chaplin turns the doctor's examination into a comedy routine.
The finest moments, and for a Chaplin film, the most atypically cinematic ones, occur when the local authorities haul the boy away in a truck. Chaplin follows the truck by racing over rooftops until he can leap down onto the truck, knock out the policeman and steal the boy back. It is beautifully shot, with a long shot showing Charlie on a roof watching the progress of the truck on the street below. The reunion scene, featuring a shot of Charlie kissing Jackie full on the lips, is the emotional climax of the film and one of the most touching and memorable in the entire Chaplin canon. That the film does not end at this point is a shame. Chaplin lets the film go on for too long, and shoehorns in an ill-advised and out of place dream sequence before things wrap up. But despite the missteps in the final moments of the film, THE KID is still, in many ways, one of my favorite Chaplin features. ½ - JB