23 December 2011 | alonzoiii-1
Accept No Substitutes or Imitations
Imagine, for a moment, a Charlie Chaplin movie, without Chaplin's timing, light-footed movement, or talent for building gags. The Chaplin tramp is there, the gestures are pretty much the same, as is the pantomime. But our hero is rather flat footed, he moves like a graceless Keystone Cop. And the jokes are ones that you have seen before (for the most part). And the only spark, is the one an unscrupulous movie producer might get from thinking how he might sell this as a Chaplin pictures, if he removes the title cards which fairly label the star.
Imagine this, and you are in the world of Billy West, who looks like Chaplin, and acts something like Chaplin, but does not think like him, or come close to moving like him. In this film, our imitator escapes a couple of cops, and fights for the Mabel Normand imitation with Oliver Hardy (who, in this film, is an Eric Campbell imitation). The dynamic between West in Hardy is more Popeye and Bluto (without the funny gags). The only original jokes involve our heroine's romantic assaults on Hardy's mustache.
Imitation like this is not a great artistic sin. Jazz would not have become what it did if trumpeters did not all imitate Louis Armstrong, and tenor sax players imitate Lester Young. But there is nothing here that need detain a viewer. The novelty of a Chaplin that isn't really funny does not outweigh the fact that the picture really isn't funny.