Runtime: 1 Hour
and 37 Minutes
"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.