1994, NR, 108 min. Directed by Roberto Benigni. Starring Roberto Benigni, Michael Blanc, Nicoletta Braschi, Dominique Lavanant, Jean Claude Brialy.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., June 21, 1996
This is a reprint of The Austin Chronicle review that ran in March when this film premiered in Austin at the SXSW Film Festival. //// Some critics have praised Italian superstar Roberto Benigni as a comic genius with a gift for physical comedy rivaling that of America's great silent film stars. Others, with a passion equal to that of his admirers, have written him off as little more than an abrasive moron. Well, after seeing this hilarious effort, I can say with absolute certainty that Benigni is both a comic genius and an abrasive moron; he's also dammed entertaining, and his latest film, The Monster, is an excellent comedy. Period. The surprisingly well-constructed script, written by Benigni with Vincenzo Cerami, is a deliciously absurd comedy of mistaken identity in which our somewhat sleazy, but always lovable, hero -- a penniless scam-artist named Loris, played, of course, by Benigni -- is incorrectly fingered as the crazed sex-murderer currently terrorizing the city. As always in a Benigni comedy, the plot is secondary to the gags it sets up, and, remarkably, hardly a scene passes in The Monster without at least a few huge laughs. While this is mainly due to the impeccable comic timing of the entire cast, one should not overlook the compact efficiency of the screenplay, nor the effectiveness of Benigni's exuberant direction. The highest-grossing film of all time in its native Italy, The Monster is a riotous good time that, much like its inimitable leading man, manages to be both irredeemably tasteless and irresistibly sweet at the same time.