Watched: August 19 2016

Director: Norman McLeod

Starring: The Marx Brothers

Year: 1931

Runtime: 1h 17min

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Another silly, silly Marx Brothers film – this time at sea. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo play four stowaways who run around generally being disruptive and getting themselves into trouble on an America-bound ship. Nothing new there.

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Fact: this is how they travelled while they were still doing their stage shows.

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As always, the brothers are very entertaining and we could watch them just being the Marx Brothers all day. After about half an hour though, they decide to add in a plot where all the stowaways are roped into being bodyguards/”tough guys” for a couple of rival gangsters (two brothers on each side). Also, one of them (Zeppo, who actually gets to play a proper part this time) falls in love with one of the gangsters’ daughter. In between the great gags, excellent lines and equally brilliant music numbers, there is a kidnapping plot and a fight scene in a barn.

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And Groucho has a very strange and unlikely romance with a gangster’s wife. Which has remarkably few consequences.

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Some comparison to Animal Crackers, which we loved, must be made. We loved this one too, especially the stowaway-thing since we’ve both had a soft spot for stowaways since The Greatest Norwegian Movie of All Time: Haakon Haakonsen a.k.a. Shipwrecked (1990). Monkey Business feels slightly less theatrical than its predecessor, probably because there are more variations to the sets and locations. It features some amazing lines, such as “a man who’s licked his weight in wild caterpillars” and Zeppo gets to participate more – he even gets the girl!

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Which is fairly realistic, given the inclinations of most women as well as the competition.

Chico plays the piano again (yay!), Harpo attempts to rape random women (very much not yay!), Groucho is a cheeky fucker and Zeppo looks like their minder. In other words, it’s definitely worth watching. Although we missed the big musical number from Animal Crackers. And there’s no actual monkey.

What we learned: we need to step up our wordplay game.

Next time: The Public Enemy (1931)

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2 thoughts on “#19 Monkey Business

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