<Todd>’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Harold, the youngest Hickory, was born on April Fool's Day. The stork that brought him could hardly fly for laughing" -Narrator,
Trained monkey in a sailor suit.
If you haven't yet had the chance to do so I highly recommend playing around in the world of Harold Lloyd. He is not only my favorite silent performer but he is probably one of my 25 or so favorite performers in film history. His movies have tons of heart and really high watchability. Lloyd has the skills to evoke all sorts of emotion with never hearing his voice. He has a great aptitude for physical humor as well as dangerous stunt work. I simply love his movies. In The Kid Brother you are introduced to a kooky western that sometimes verges on a pirate story and it's great.
In The Kid Brother we explore how families can be a nightmare. In the town of Hickoryville, the Hickory family is more important than any other family. Why they have Sheriff Jim Hickory, he's the best and he's so strong. Sheriff Jim has his really tough boys Leo and Olin who help him run the town and take care of his work. Then there's poor Harold who has a ton of intelligence and a try hard attitude but little strength or control over his life. What will happen when they need the Kid Brother to help create order in the town? What unfolds is a funny and sweet story about finding your own strengths and using them for good.
This is a movie about being the black sheep in the family when you deserve to be the celebrated star of the family... and other thoughts. The Western stuff is all solid and the physical gags are great. I love how much of Lloyd's humor relies on people making false assumptions and him never clarifying... just awkwardly trying to go with the false assumption. The romantic subplot works in this story better than most silent films that I have watched. Mary and Harold's relationship is endearing. They have a fun meet cute where Harold stops Mary from getting attacked and the love slowly builds from there. Jobyna Ralston plays such a great straight person to Lloyd's comedy and is a wonderful silent actress. She really creates their chemistry and it works.
The Kid Brother, simply put, is a great cinematic experience. On a technical level I love the way this film looks and sounds. I watched an alternate version with a new musical accompaniment created by Harold Lloyd's favorite organist and it works very well. The Kid Brother is great black and white photography and the performances as a whole are outstanding. I'm enamored by all of the production work that has to go into these early films and how much they are able to do with limited technical abilities. I also enjoy the time capsule aspect of watching a film from nearly 100 years ago. The commentary on masculinity is surprisingly relevant today.