Animal Crackers

Rated: G
Runtime: 1 Hour and 37 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: C

"One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas, I'll never know."

Groucho Marx is one of, if not THE, wittiest man ever to grace the silver screen. He has so many witty comebacks, backhanded putdowns, sharp observations and verbal spinballs that it takes more than one viewing to spot them all in any Marx Brothers film. People talk about
The Marx Brothers, but what they are really talking about is Groucho. The rest of the brothers are nothing without him. In fact, they aren't all that much WITH him. Chico is pretty funny, using that Italian accent with great zest, and Harpo's antics are rather delightful, but Groucho, well, Groucho is the man. He is the one. He is the reason you watch a friggin Marx Brothers movie.

Now that I am done shining Groucho's shoes, let me be blunt. If you want a shining example of the Marx Brothers at their peak, at their pinnacle, if you want to know what makes them great. Then, for God's sakes, don't start out with this movie.

It has its moments, oh yes it does. It has a pretty funny card game in which every card Harpo plays is the Ace of Spades. It has the quote at the beginning of this review spouted deliciously by the great Groucho. It has a magnificent piano performance by Chico, who starts a song and then keeps playing the same few chords because he forgot the rest of the song. And yes, it is sporadically funny.

But even a bunch of comic geniuses need some material in which to shine, and the Marxes have little to work with here. The Marxes are restrained to a single house, and not even a very interesting house. The plot, which never matters much in a Marx film but even by those standards this one induces a great many yawns, involves a stolen painting or something. At one point, I had no idea what the hell was going on. Worse, I didn't really care. Sure, some funny things happen, but not as many as you would expect. When Groucho is out of the frame, the movie starts to unwind. It falls apart, frankly. Every non-Marx actor is just shy of terrible (some not very shy). The musical interludes are nearly painful to sit through. The love story is so damn boring that it almost makes a person cry.

There are some excellent Marx movies out there. "Duck Soup" is one. "Night at the Opera" is another. If you want to see the boys in top form, rent one of those. If you just want to see the Marxes, rent this one. It isn't a bad movie, and it has some wonderful lines, but non-Marxists need not apply.