Reviews - Life Is Beautiful (1997)
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Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Genres: Comedy, Drama, War

Taglines: An unforgettable fable that proves love, family and imagination conquer all.

Director: Roberto Benigni

Writers: Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni

Stars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano, ...

In 1930s Italy, a carefree Jewish book keeper named Guido starts a fairy tale life by courting and marrying a lovely woman from a nearby city. Guido and his wife have a son and live happily together until the occupation of Italy by German forces. In an attempt to hold his family together and help his son survive the horrors of a Jewish Concentration Camp, Guido imagines that the Holocaust is a game and that the grand prize for winning is a tank.

100

Benigni, with great help from young Cantarini, has crafted a work of such complexity that you may find both your brain and your heart simply overloaded. Which, of course, is the rarely achieved goal of all art.

100 | Michael Wilmington

A deeply moving blend of cold terror and rapturous hilarity. Lovingly crafted by Italy's top comedian and most popular filmmaker, it's that rare comedy that takes on a daring and ambitious subject and proves worthy of it.
Read More: Chicago Tribune

100 | Shawn Levy

One of the greatest films about the civilian experience of war ever made anywhere.
Read More: Portland Oregonian

88 | Mike Clark

To see someone even attempt bittersweet treatment of this subject is surprising, but to largely pull it off is a major feat.
Read More: USA Today

88 | Jami Bernard

A rare blend of comedy and tenderness whose point is not the horrors of war but the lengths a parent will go to protect his child's innocence.
Read More: New York Daily News

88 | Roger Ebert

Finds the right notes to negotiate its delicate subject matter.
Read More: Chicago Sun-Times

80 | Elvis Mitchell

Benigni effectively creates a situation in which comedy is courage. And he draws from this an unpretentious, enormously likable film that plays with history both seriously and mischievously. Piety has no place here, nor do tears until the final reel. Life is Beautiful plays by its own rules
Read More: The New York Times

80 | Joshua Klein

The concept is not so much nihilistic as it is realistic, and the fact that Benigni has made such fine distinctions so powerfully clear is amazing and moving.
Read More: The A.V. Club

80 | Sean Means

It's a high-wire act without a net, and Benigni pulls it off with astounding grace and sensitivity.
Read More: Film.com

80 | Michael O'Sullivan

In one bold stride, Benigni has set himself apart from the rank and file of funnymen, joining the elite class of clowns who know that humor and heartbreak are only a howl of pain apart.
Read More: Washington Post

80 | M. V. Moorhead

If, like Benigni, you were born after World War II, it reassures us that he hasn't forgotten the innate seriousness of his subject matter, and that despite its grimness, he still thinks life is beautiful.
Read More: Dallas Observer

75 | Rick Groen

Ultimately, Benigni's comic refinery merely transforms the banality of evil into a lesser sin -- the evil of banality.
Read More: The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

75 | Walter Addiego

Succeeds better than it ought to, largely because of the personality and prodigious talents of its director and star, the Italian comedian Roberto Benigni.
Read More: San Francisco Examiner

75 | James Berardinelli

It's the depiction of the love and sacrifice of a father for a son that makes Life is Beautiful worthwhile.
Read More: ReelViews

70 | David Rooney

Sluggish, uneven and lacking in rhythm, it nonetheless has enough pathos and winning humor.
Read More: Variety

70 | Rita Kempley

While it celebrates the triumph of humor, invention and the human spirit, Life Is Beautiful is not the transporting experience it might have been. Benigni knows how to make us laugh, but he has not yet figured out how to make us cry.
Read More: Washington Post

67 | Owen Gleiberman

Starts out as sentimental whimsy and ends as sentimental kitsch.
Read More: Entertainment Weekly

67 | Marjorie Baumgarten

Manages to incorporate all these things into a moving yet unsentimental story about the beauty of maintaining one's wits while stumbling blindly in the insane no man's land that lies beyond wit's end.
Read More: Austin Chronicle

60 | Kenneth Turan

While it's futile to pretend that Life Is Beautiful completely triumphs--it's simply too tough a concept to sustain--what is surprising about this unlikely film is that it succeeds as well as it does.
Read More: Los Angeles Times

60 | Michael Atkinson

Has one of the most stupendously tasteless premises in cinema history, and much of the time when this movie tries to beckon a smile, the effect is closer to astonished nausea.
Read More: Mr. Showbiz

50 | Mick LaSalle

Benigni sets out to do the impossible.
Read More: San Francisco Chronicle

50 | David Sterritt

Has good intentions, but its exaggerated celebration of quick-witted improvisation ultimately trivializes the human and historical horrors evoked by the story.
Read More: Christian Science Monitor

50 | J. Hoberman

Life Is Beautiful is funny (kinda) and even tasteful (sorta). But in its fantasy of divine grace, it is also nonsense.
Read More: Village Voice

50 | Sandra Contreras

Benigni wants to tell a poignant fable rooted in the love between a father and son, but everything hinges on whether one finds his gags inspired or tasteless. Humor can only save some of us.
Read More: TV Guide Magazine

30 | Ella Taylor

The director gives us not just a pop Holocaust but a prettified, palatable Holocaust.
Read More: L.A. Weekly

20 | Jonathan Rosenbaum

The indifference of the proceedings and the hero's slapstick behavior to the everyday realities of the camps borders on the nauseating.
Read More: Chicago Reader

20 | Richard Schickel

In this climate, turning even a small corner of this century's central horror into feel-good popular entertainment is abhorrent.
Read More: Time

10 | Charles Taylor

The point, I think, is the sheer callous inappropriateness of comedy existing within the physical reality of the camps -- even the imagined reality of a movie.
Read More: Salon.com

0 | David Edelstein

Benigni's movie made me want to throw up.
Read More: Slate