Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monkey Business

Monkey Business; Comedy, USA, 1931; D: Norman Z. McLeod, S: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd

The Marx brothers are traveling as blind passengers on a ship across the Atlantic Ocean. They are constantly chased by the captain. Two of them get hired as assistants to mobster Alky, while the other two as bodyguards for the rich Joe. They barely manage to get off the ship because the passengers have to show their passports, so they all introduce themselves as the same singer. In New York, they get summoned to Joe's party. But the evil Alky kidnapped Joe's daughter and wants a ransom money for her, so the Marx brothers beat him up and save her.

All Marx brothers movies, including "Monkey Business", just use any given story as an excuse for a whole bunch of jokes. Unfortunately, this film is still a step behind their excellent satire "Duck Soup": too much nonsense, too little humor. The exposition in which the sailor are chasing after the Marx brothers is untypically mild and finally gets interrupted by a genius dialog between Groucho and Chico ("I'm starving! I haven't eaten for 3 days!" - "But you've been on this ship for only 2 days!"). There are also further amusing moments: Chico tries to steal a passport from a passenger's pocket, but he spots him and says: "You'll have to wake up early to trick me!", causing Groucho immediately to add: "But he did wake up early, but you weren't there!" The biggest problem here are the hamming supporting actors and uneven moments, which prevent it to become a sheer anarchic fun. But a movie can't be bad with a scene like this: the cab driver tells Groucho he owns him 1.10 $ for the ride, and he replies to him: "Here's a dollar, and keep the change!"


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