Monkey Business (1931)
Starring: The Marx Brothers - Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo (Duck Soup; A Night At The Opera)
Directed By: Norman Z. McLeod (It's a Gift)
Overview: When the crew of an ocean liner discovers four stowaways, they find the slippery punsters more difficult to catch than expected. Oh and there's a power struggle plot with some gangsters there too, sort of.
Acting: The first lines in the film are delivered by people who A.) Should have gotten another take. B.) Got let on set by accident C.) Have family in the industry who are owed favours. I strongly suspect the not-so-smooth comedic timing of W.C. Field in It's a Gift might be attributed to a director who is anywhere from meticulous in what he thinks should be permanently committed to history. And did I catch Groucho READING half his lines? Is this "Saturday Night Live"?!
Cinematography: As I watched this, I was astounded by the professionalism of the production. No, there was nothing particularly innovative or unique about the shots or the sets but I was wondering if the production date on the DVD was mislabeled. It looked more like something made in 1950 due to the technical prowess and the film quality. Compared to the other tragically beat-up versions of 1931 films I saw, like The Bitch and Le Million, it's clear that America takes care of its film footage better than the French. Sadly, 'crisp' is the best thing I have to say about it. Oh, nice moustache Groucho, it's classic.
Script: So I've hit the Marx Brothers wall. Like Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, it is holy to some and a pure source of evil annoyance to others, including vampires. It's something you can't get around even if you try, and sometimes you just have to stare at it and let it fill your soul with its presence, no matter how much you may hate Jews... or pun-filled comedy. For the obvious memorabilia and occasional laughs I will award it a passing grade, but man this was difficult to endure sometimes, the jokes were actually quite weak. This ain't no Duck Soup.
Plot: Look, of late I've been watching some pretty plotless stuff. Waking Life, Wonder Showzen...Silent Hill. Sometimes it's ok to watch something without much of a story, but this one was honestly 65 minutes of wacky antics and 12 minutes of storyline, no kidding. This was basically a setting and a sound board for Groucho's one-liner puns, and Harpo's horn honking, girl chasing. Does no one find it disturbing that in half his scenes he is literally running after a woman who is fleeing from him at top speed, screaming her lungs out? Creepy, dude.
Mood: Eeesh. Wacky humour with two impressive musical instrument bits (Harpo on the harp, actually. Go subtext!). I don't know if it's the legendary preconceived notions that preceded the brothers, but it seems really dated to me. We have The Funny Guy (Alan Alda), The Mute (Orphan Annie), The Dumb Ethnic (Tony Danza), and some straight-playing generic suit who's job it apparently is to provide plot and / or win the girl. He's not funny... like at ALL. Stop crapping all over what I wrote just now in your outrage. You might remember this as being funny, old man, but watch it again and tell me it's good.
Overall Rating: 58% (For a Movie Full of Puns, Not ONE MONKEY!)
Aftertaste: What did people see in these guys? Was there a vacuum in film that no one could fill or something? I am finding that during the first few years of the wonder that was 'the talkie', actors, writers and producers saw a medium where they could say funny things endlessly, where they could blab endlessly long wisdoms of their view of the world, where they could go on and on about their moral dilemmas. I said early on that it seemed that people went overboard when they discovered this added feature to film. Like your first microwave, they crammed all they could into it to see how well it could handle it. I'm finding this yappy era pretty difficult to stomach.