- The Kid Brother review by Steve Mason
This is a romantic comedy which works as a sweet boy-meets-girl story, with Harold Lloyd leaving most of the action until the end with a superb final 20 minutes featuring Harold rousting a huge thug who has stolen public money from his father. The star is the weakling youngest son of a family of tough rustic musclemen led by his father the sheriff. And Harold admires them devotedly, and dreams of being just like them. Jobyna Ralston comes into town as an innocent member of a crooked medicine show, and her ne'er-do-well associates steal the fortune the sheriff is holding to build a dam for the local towns.
And Harold goes to get it back. Fortunately, though his brothers are thick in the arm and in the head too, the youngest brother has a brain that no one else in the family or community shows any interest in. And it's great fun to see Lloyd give the runaround to the local burly rednecks, and ultimately the strongman of the travelling show.
It's an emotionally manipulative film as Lloyd's comedies are. Harold is an unambiguously clean cut character that we root, his alliance with Jobyna utterly virtuous. We know how it will all turn out of course, but there is immense visual wit along the way. The film is dense with charming, clever gags and the set piece denouement on a wrecked ship gives Harold an opportunity to display his character's wholesome determination and his own consummate artistry at physical comedy.
Lloyd's films (it seems he co-directed without credit) made more money out of comedy in the 1920s than any of his great contemporaries. His work was astonishingly consistent. But the sound era is coming. Ralston sadly wouldn't survive the transition. Lloyd did better than many, but the talkies brought the middle European sophistication and moral ambiguities of Ernst Lubitsch. Lloyd's clean-living innocents would start go out of style. But removed from the fickleness of fashion his silent comedies pass the test of time.
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