At last the critics and intellectuals have gotten Charley Chaplin, hook, line, and sinker. Conscious that he has an IMPORTANT MESSAGE to bring to America, he has in his first talkie painfully given birth to a bastard offspring in which Chaplin the world's greatest clown plays second fiddle to Chaplin the preacher.
You can't mix William Powell and Donald Duck in the same picture and expect the result to be anything but a hash. In "The Dictator" Chaplin appears in two parts: the pathetic and familiar little figure, and the dictator. As the barber he is the old Chaplin. His dance sequence after getting bopped on the head with a shovel, and the nonchalant feat of accompanying the Fifth Hungarian Rhapsody with his razor while shaving a frightened customer are as good as anything he did in the era of "The Kid" and "The Circus." Naturally he plays Adenoid Hinkel, the Phooey of Tomania, superbly. But here he is moving in a strange and discordant world of realistic and bitter social satire that just doesn't fit in. And when at the end of the picture he steps out of both roles and delivers a long and stirring plea for unity in the face of brutality and suppression, the audience stirs uneasily and looks for the nearest exit.
The production is elaborate and smooth, though the musical score doesn't touch "Modern Times." Gardiner and Paulette Goddard are thrown in for good measure and a $1.10 ticket. Goddard ought to stick with Bob Hope: at least she got undressed every other reel in "The Ghost Breakers."