Awards won: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actor (Roberto Benigni), Best Original Score
Call it the Forrest Gump effect: Life Is Beautiful was critically acclaimed and universally beloved at the time of its release, but watching it again now, one can’t help but marvel at how emotionally manipulative it actually is. If anything, this movie is actually worse than Forrest Gump in that respect, because at least that movie didn’t mine humor out of Forrest in a concentration camp.
The actual plot of this movie revolves around a man named Guido (played by Roberto Benigni, in an Oscar-winning performance) courting a married woman in 1930s Italy, marrying her and having a son, and then years later the entire family being sent to a concentration camp, where Guido lies to his son and tells him they’re actually all playing a game where the prize is a tank(!?). The movie ends up being an uncomfortable mix of slapstick comedy and drama as Benigni does his worst Chaplin impression while the actual Holocaust happens. Life Is Beautiful is the worst kind of emotional porn: it goes for the easiest laughs and the easiest emotion by attempting (and ultimately failing) to depict a historical atrocity.