The first three things that strike you about the rerelease of Chaplin’s The Great Dictator are that his voice isn’t really that bad, that his acting is really that bad, and that movies have gotten a lot better in the last 60 years. It’s an influential film (my eyes couldn’t help seeing Mel Brooks’ villains in Chaplins’ blustering Adenoyd Hinkel) and a brave one – enjoyably loopy in places, and features a fine turn by Henry Daniell as scene-stealing SS controller Garbitsch. None of this changes the fact that there are too many gags set up too long in advance, too many speeches directly to camera and too many wrong-headed choices (having Chaplin’s other character, a Jewish barber, tip a pile of coins belonging to his sweetheart into his pocket or compressing the non-cartoon violence of the Jewish persecution into a few hours’ car-ride) to recommend it to anyone today. If you have two hours to kill, the price of a ticket in your pocket and a wish to enjoy a film rather than study it, you could do much better.

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