Despite its pedigree, which includes “Gandhi” director Richard Attenborough and a nonstop parade of A-list talent, somehow “Chaplin” ends up being a complete dud. Oscar nomination notwithstanding, Robert Downey Jr’s titular performance never registers as authentic or believable, belonging instead in the annals of biographical cinema as a second-rate pantomime: Downey Jr. knows the beats to play, like Chaplin’s signature body language, but never seems to understand or care about Chaplin as a person enough to humanize him. Meanwhile, the film’s episodic structure makes the narrative just about impossible to follow for all but Chaplin historians, while it also has a regrettable tendency to brush aside Chaplin’s less laudable personality traits, like his fondness for underage girls and his cruelly casual disinterest in his spouses and children. Add to this a two-and-a-half hour running time and the movie becomes a chore to sit through.
Rating: ★★ (out of 5)