Directed by Robert Benigni
Starring Robert Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi
"The Monster (Il Mostro)"

Opens: May 3, 1996

Italian comic- writer- director- producer- actor Roberto Benigni's "The Monster," revolving around a hapless petty thief mistaken for a serial killer, hinges almost entirely on the star's mostly physical performance.

Benigni drops a cigarette in his pants and gets five minutes out of dancing around and pulling at crotch. He stuffs a trench coat full of pilfered merchandise at a department store and sneaks out like he's carrying a watermelon between his legs. He watches a pretty girl walk by and his face turns expressive somersaults. And, of course, his clothes are three sizes too big.

Intelligent humor it is not, and frankly, I'm no fan of Benigni (Jerry Lewis flashbacks), but this picture is fantastically funny. Without Benigni, however, "The Monster" isn't much more than a barrage of very cheap sex jokes revolving around a pretty young cop (Benigni's real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi) who moves in with our hapless hero to push his buttons and see if he'll pop off and try to kill her.

Being a gentleman (reluctantly) and not a murderer, he politely resists her blatant taunts, looking away and speaking loudly of taxes and the economy as she kicks her legs in the air and reads aloud from her diary.

The movie takes one reel to get rolling, but when it does "The Monster" is steady low-brow laughs -- funny, but without substance.

Suffice to say, when Hollywood buys the rights to Americanize "The Monster" (it is inevitable, isn't it?), it will almost certainly star Jim Carrey.

©1996 All Rights Reserved.

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