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Anyone who has ever seen anything done by the Marx Brothers knows that their brand of humor isn't for everybody, especially in today's modern culture of mostly vulgar and disgusting gross-out humor. With their quick wit and relentless push of comedy, the Marx Brothers changed comedy forever and this movie is a prime example. Groucho plays a famous African explorer who has just returned and his giving outlandish tales of his adventures. Meanwhile, Chico and Harpo play two musicians who scheme and chase women. All in all, this is just great fun. It shows how amazing the Marx Brothers were with comedy and how seamlessly they transferred from Broadway to film. If you like comedy, this is definitely a must-see. If you like the Marx Brothers, then you aren't a fan unless you have seen it. This isn't their best work, but it's better than most comedy out there.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Society hostess Mrs Rittenhouse is throwing a big party to exhibit a
great art treasure and has invited Captain Geoffrey T. Spaulding, a
famed explorer, as her guest of honour. All is going well until the
painting is stolen ...
This is one of the very best Marx Brothers pictures (only Duck Soup and A Day At The Races are better, in my opinion) which set the tone for their movies, particularly with the insane dialogue. The dialogue in this movie is just incredible - it just keeps rushing past with dizzying speed and content. There are insane puns, non sequiturs, total gibberish, bizarre arty references (a series of asides spoofing the style of Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Strange Interlude), and daring double-entendre ("Signor Ravelli's first selection will be Somewhere My Love Lies Sleeping with a male chorus."). In particular, Chico and Groucho's sparring is totally cracked - "For playing, we get ten dollars an hour." - "And for not playing ?" - "Twelve dollars an hour.". The writing by Bert Kalmar, George S. Kaufman, Harry Ruby and Morrie Ryskind can only be accurately described as extraordinary. I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but it's extraordinary ! It's also full of great music, notably the much-beloved Hello, I Must Be Going number, a wonderful sequence where Chico gets stuck on an endless melody (Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-dang !!) on the piano and perhaps Harpo's most beautiful three-minute, one-shot, no-cuts harp solo. The brothers are also surrounded by some great performers here; Dumont is as irresistible as ever, Roth is wonderful as the batty flapper girl Arabella ("Oh, Mr Ravioli !") and was the subject of an intriguing biopic years later entitled I'll Cry Tomorrow, Sorin is a gas as the high-falluting art critic (the scene with Groucho where he gets their names mixed up is priceless) and Greig - one of Preston Sturges' gifted comedy troupe - is a seasoned pro as Hives, the lugubrious butler. If the movie has one fault, it's that it's a little stagey and flatly directed, an obvious adaptation of the original 1928 Broadway play. But this can't spoil this beautifully crazy, brain-melting, goofily romantic comedy masterpiece.
Fans of the Marx Brothers should find this early stage-to-screen gem critic proof. Granted, like many another early 30's product, it's cinematically static and loaded down with an icky romantic subplot. It's pretty much a filmed stage play. But every time the Marxes appear, Animal Crackers becomes pure eye/ear candy as the Brothers reel off great routines perfected by constant repetition. (Note to quibblers: A&C's beloved "Who's on First" was honed through decades of practice too.) Groucho's rapid one liners, Chico's malaprops and just about anything Harpo does can still draw laughter some 75 years later. Extras: the art deco sets and Margaret Dumont's raised eyebrow performance. One final note: Animal Crackers was filmed at Astoria studios, a few miles from the film's Long Island locale, and the scenario lampoons the island's Roaring Twenties parties made legendary by Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.
The marx brothers are hilarious,this movie is no exception. Groucho has the hilarious mix of sillyness and wordplay and harpo balances that out with hilarious slapstick. The marx's brothers visual and verbal humor are unmatched. This movie is very funny, I recommend it, especially if you like the marx brothers. They were a great comedy team and worked well off each other like Martin & Lewis or Abott & Costello. This movie is very silly. At various point Groucho has hilarious random monologues to the audience, totally out of context. I could not stop laughing. Basically, SEE THIS MOVIE FOR A LAUGH. A-
Although Duck Soup is my favorite Marx Bros. film, Animal Crackers is a very close second. What I especially like is that even though it is an early talkie, it nontheless has the feel of a "roaring 20's" production which in fact it had been as a Broadway show. Also the secondary characters such as Roscoe Chandler (aka Avi the Fishman) are actually slightly interesting which really can't be said of many of the other Marx Brothers films or about Zeppo for that matter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Groucho Marx has a field day as the famed African explorer Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding in the second Marx Brothers' sound comedy "Animal Crackers." Incidentally, like their first sound film "The Coconuts," "Animal Crackers" was adapted from a Broadway play that the Marx Brothers toplined for 191 performances. The action occurs in one location. High Society dame Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) invites Captain Spaulding to be her guest of honor at her palatial, Long Island estate.He arrives via a sedan chair lugged by a quartet of African-Americans. Affluent art patron Roscoe W. Chandler (Louis Sorin) plans to unveil Beaugard's famous painting "After the Hunt" to celebrate Spaulding's fame. Initially, Mrs. Rittenhouse's daughter Arabella (Lillian Roth of 'Madam Satan") plans to marry below her social status to a painter who is penniless. He has only sold two paintings in his life. The ever optimistic Arabella (Lillian Roth) thinks that if Johnny showed his paintings to Chandler that the latter might give the former some painting jobs. Meantime, Mrs. Whitehead (Margaret Irving) and her friend Grace (Kathryn Reece)plan to play a prank on Mrs. Rittenhouse. Mrs. Whitehead convinces Mrs. Rittenhouse's butler, Hives (Robert Greig) to substitute Grace's copy of the Beaugard for the real Beaugard. While Captain Spaulding flirting with Mrs. Rittenhouse, Emanuel Ravelli (Chico Marx) shows up with the Professor (Harpo Marx) who goes on a shooting rampage at one point. He shoots a clock, a bird cage, ladies' hats, a bottle on a tray, and two battling statues. The thief of the Beaugard eventually draws the police into the crime while Captain Spaulding struggles to recover the painting. Clocking in at 97 minutes, "Animal Crackers" contains lots of laughs!
Although I am slightly conflicted between this or a Night At the Opera this one wins every time. Its not restricted by plot or musical numbers or even having a conclusion. No instead the Marx brothers are exactly where they don't belong, high society, which is why it's the best place for them to be funny. The film beginnings with what later became Groucho Marx's anthem (Hooray for Captain Spaulding) and the Craziness goes from there. Whether it's Groucho insulting everyone in sight or whether its Harpo chasing every woman in close perimeter. No lovers leading the story, just the Marx Brothers doing what they do best, upsetting the high society establishment. The musical is even funny and is only contained to Chico playing two songs. The best scene I think that can sum up not only this movie but the great mix of wit and physical comedy can be found in the card playing scene with Margaret Dumont, Chico, and Harpo. At first, the scene is entirely physical comedy almost mimicking that of three stooges, but when they sit down to play cards the quick wit of the Marx Brothers is quickly shown and if you're not paying attention you will have to watch the scene several times to understand everything that's going on.
While straightforward in its story structure, Animal Crackers is nothing less than a sheer delight. Some of the early sound recording may feel static, but with such hilarity and entertainment on show, you forget about any minor flaws Animal Crackers might have. The film does look good, the cinematography is nice and the sets are good. The film skips by, while the script is witty and sharp with some hilarious lines such "Did somebody call me schnorrer"(one of my favourite ever entrances in a Marx film) and the sight gags are clever and brilliantly timed, the part when Groucho shoots an elephant in his pyjamas is just hysterical. The direction and acting are top notch once again, Groucho is just great fun here, and Margaret Dumont matches him perfectly. Overall, a sheer delight, not the Marx Brothers very best(Duck Soup in my opinion with A Night at the Opera a close second) but it is my top 10 of Marx Brothers flicks. 9/10 Bethany Cox
Returning from expedition in Africa, wise-cracking Groucho Marx (as
Captain Spaulding) is the guest of honor at the Long Island estate of
matronly Margaret Dumont (as Mrs. Rittenhouse). Musicians hired for the
occasion are Chico Marx (as Signor Emanuel Ravelli) and Harpo Marx (as
The Professor). Brother Zeppo takes a letter (as Horatio Jamison).
Butler Robert Greig still has hives. The plot involves the stolen
painting "After the Hunt". This is where Groucho shot an elephant in
"Animal Crackers" is a mostly perfect representation of their stage success, overcoming the technological problems which hampered "The Coconuts" (1929). The sometimes dismissed plot and romance pace the film beautifully, and the music is perfect; note how well "Why Am I So Romantic?" sets the stage for the harp interlude. The Kaufman-Ryskind script and the Marx Brothers' finely-tuned delivery breathed life into talking pictures even as Harpo said nothing and the film went out of circulation for decades.
********** Animal Crackers (8/20/30) Victor Heerman ~ Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Margaret Dumont
From a technical standpoint, this movie is horrible. It barely has a
story, and restrictions in early sound technology caused a lot of what
looked like bad filmmaking, even though it wasn't their fault. The
staging and cinematography was flat, but that was just because they had
to get all the actors under the mike, and their cameras had to be made
noiseless in order to actually hear the movie.
That said, I loved this movie. It was the Marx Brothers that pulled this mess together. I really enjoy Groucho's rapid- fire delivery, Harpo's visual humour, and, er, the other two guys. The jokes just come at you in all directions, including jokes about other jokes. The Marx Brothers present these jokes with such energy, that only cynical snobs like me could possibly notice its faults.
Bottom Line: It will might make you laugh hard, just don't think too hard about it.
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