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Customer Review

159 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both hilarious and deeply moving, August 31, 2003
This review is from: Life is Beautiful (DVD)
When Roberto Benigni burst onto the Hollywood scene with this acclaimed film and his over-the-top enthusiasm, I couldn't bring myself to watch this film. Instead, I waited for the DVD. However, what I perceived as hype was truly deserved. "Life is Beautiful" is a wonderfully inventive tale that seems fresh even today, years after its first release. Part slapstick, part drama, part romantic comedy, part tragedy - this story of an Italian family during the Holocaust defies categorization.
The films opens with Guido (Benigni) and his friend arriving in town on a car with no brakes and being mistaken for facist officials expected for a parade. This slapstick scene ends with Guido catching the future love of his life, Dora (Nicoletta Braschi), as she jumps from a barn window. The clownish Guido sets out to win her heart despite the odds against him. These early scenes set the stage for the rest of the movie: Guido will rely on invention, humor, and persistence to protect his loved ones despite the obstacles he faces. What begins as slapstick becomes heartbreaking later. Like all stories of the Holocaust, this film has its grim side, but Benigni relies heavily on exaggerated humor, running gags, and an early circus-like atmosphere to set up the emotional power of the time's reality. Most of the atrocities are implied, not witnessed, and the viewer's own knowledge of the time period creates an additional layer of tension.
Roberto Benigni is superb as Guido; his antics are hilarious, but during more dire moments, emotions flash across his face, revealing both the depth of his character and the reality of his position. Nicoletta Braschi is also good, and little Giorgio Cantinini as Guido?s son Joshua is adorably spunky, especially as he questions his father's stories.
I always advocate watching foreign films in the original language, with subtitles, but I understand that some viewers may not like "reading" a movie. In this case, however, the dubbed version was distracting, as Benigni provides the English track for his own character while American voices dub the rest of the cast. His Italian accent amid the American accents completely broke the illusion for me. Still, if a dubbed version is the only way you'll watch this movie, please do it.
I highly recommend "Life is Beautiful." Its offbeat approach remains unparalleled in the canon of Holocaust movies. Because of the absence of explicit violence and sex, viewers as young as thirteen should admire this extraordinary film.
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Review Details

Item

Reviewer

Debbie Lee Wesselmann
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (2008 HOLIDAY TEAM)   

Location: the Lehigh Valley, PA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 80