a comedy from roberto benigni that is nothing short of brilliant. the laughs aren’t as hearty as they were when i watched meet the parents or the 40 year old virgin the first time, and i can’t tell yet if the laughs will have as much life as they have in my favorite comedy of all-time (planes, trains and automobiles); but the laughs in monster are good and plentiful. the humor is decidedly european, but really should translate to american audiences without trouble. on a related note – the film is in italian, but the audio is recorded in post-production so it looks dubbed (a look i’ve always disliked, but i understand the economics of the decision). that said, don’t be tempted to watch the film with the english audio track – it looks even worse and the translation is shoddy. stick with the italian with subtitles.
the premise finds benigni as a hapless, unemployed man who is (wrongly) suspected of being the infamous “monster” – a rapist/murderer who is on the loose throughout italy. the comedy is mostly cabsurdist stuff, but a lot of it is relatively heady in its execution. there’s a lot of setup that goes into the execution of some of the gags, and, in some cases there are gags which pay bigger dividends later in the film. in this regard, the construction of the film reminded me of meet the parents because both films were clearly written and re-written several times. it’s only with several re-writes that a film acquires this level of depth and efficiency. much of the film’s humor derives from cases of mistaken identity, changes of perspective, and benigni’s unique path through life.
nicoletta braschi, who is married to benigni and starred across him in life is beautiful, is great in this film as well. she’s sexy (which is required because of the film’s far-fetched premise), funny, and complements benigni amazingly well. she plays an undercover cop who is charged with the task of luring benigni into showing his “true” self, thus providing the proof the police need to incarcerate him. as the film progresses we see braschi and benigni form a playful and fun relationship which adds a depth to the picture without bogging it down with trite sentimentality. add to this the fact that it pokes plenty of fun at shrinks and cops and you have a brilliantly drawn and realized comedy that should leave you wanting more.