Life Is Beautiful

Sincere and lachrymose, directorially ham-fisted, and terminally sappy, Roberto Benigni’s 1997 movie about Italian fascism and the Holocaust makes Schindler’s List look like social realism. The simple plot concerns a simple, good-hearted, and partly Jewish dreamer (Benigni), the proper schoolteacher he woos and marries (Nicoletta Braschi, Benigni’s real-life wife), and their little boy. The first half or so coasts along on a certain amount of charm attached to Benigni’s charismatic mugging, but when father and son wind up at a concentration camp and the father contrives to explain their hardships in terms of an invented game, the indifference of the proceedings and the hero’s slapstick behavior to the everyday realities of the camps borders on the nauseating. In Italian with subtitles. 116 min. (JR)

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