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|Index||78 reviews in total|
This is NOT one of the Marx brothers best films, the production values are
terribly low, the camera work is amateurish (even for the time), and the
sound has been terrible on ever copy I have ever seen. Also, the film is
really nothing more than an occasion for the brothers to demonstrate their
vaudeville act for the camera and no real effort is made to work these
episodes meaningfully into the story (in one instance Harpo just starts
playing his instrument for no apparent reason). The jokes are forced and
you get the distinct feeling that even the brothers themselves realize that
this is NOT a good film.
However, there are moments of pure brilliance and the film is still definitely worth seeing. There are several scenes where it is quite clear that Groucho has gone off the script and is completely throwing the other actors off their game (as is evidence by their barely controlled laughter). There are scenes where clearly Chico and Harpo are given free-reign and became a disruptive and anarchic force that is endlessly entertaining.
Overall, this is certainly not the film to start watching the Marx brothers with, nor is it a particularly good example of their work (start with Day at the Races or Night at the Opera), but for fans the movie is indespensable. But even as a fan of the brothers, I found myself losing interest or getting bored in places.
I am a great fan of the Marx Brothers, though I don't like them as
consistently as I do Laurel and Hardy. "Duck Soup" is one of my personal
favourites of all films and "A Day at the Races", "Monkey Business" and
"Horse Feathers" are all flawed successes. I really preferred "At The
Circus" to this, as well; an underrated film that, where this is overrated.
"Animal Crackers" disappointed me, on a first viewing over a year ago, and watching it again last night, the same reservations applied. It seems to me the Marxes are still in the process of honing their stage act to the silver screen, and are only part way there at best. It all seems quite as if they have yet to become fully at ease with the cameras, and angles of film. It is delivered merely as a stage play, with many Groucho asides adding to this effect. There is not the more effective, nuanced direction of the Brothers' antics and characters as in say, the three films following this, particularly "Duck Soup".
The background plot is, as ever in the Marx Brothers farces, cardboard of texture, with Zeppo blending into that and Margaret Dumont providing a superb foil for the Brothers, and Groucho in particular, of course. I suppose you could say Kitty Carlisle gives slightly more zest than you'd expect of a background ingenue in a Marx Brothers film. Yet, her song is, well, a little cringe-worthy and out of place in its doe-eyed vapidity. The background characters are all there to provide foils and authority figures; and indeed, love interests to occupy the indifferent Zeppo.
I really don't like the sets and general production values here; they seem cheaper by far than in the three successive Paramount vehicles for the Brothers. The musical routines are not the best; Chico's is passable, but Harpo's is one of his duller harp numbers... and I do love that instrument. The Brothers are on fair form, but are certainly not at their best; Groucho doesn't quite time his quick-fire jibes to the tee we are used to, often coming across as long-winded and firing off too many similar japes in succession. However, there are *some* great one-liners; but I'd make the point that he's not at his best. Chico is okay; his best film from those I have seen, is "Duck Soup" where his brand of wily, hapless idiocy is best used. Harpo is most impressive here; his entrance as "The Professor" is one of the film's few really hilarious moments, and he has some fine pantomime. Again, he was to do better stuff in subsequent films though. The card game, I suppose, is deftly done.
Overall, a below-par film; the Marx Brothers were not yet properly adjusted to cinema as a medium. Some good stuff, but too many misfires... not the best vehicle overall, but watchable fare.
Groucho Marx in one of the Marx Brothers' Classics, surrounded by the
usual cast of High Society bubble heads, delivers what many consider
their very best work. The lunacy begins when Groucho arrives back from
an African Exploration, just in time to be the guest of honor at a
Society Dinner Party. The craziness is fueled by some twists and turns
about a valuable painting (which seems to be easily copied onto what
appears like a roll of wall paper). The predictable plot keeps rolling
along, while Groucho seems to consume 95% of the script with
In 1930 this may have been a welcome distraction from Depression Era hum-drum life. I tried to find the same amusement a lifetime later, and can't agree with the critics. Aside from a few clever (even risqué) jokes, I was missing the rolling-on-the-floor-with-laughter effect. Animal Crackers left me only with Luke-warm feelings, while I found the "other" Marx Brothers Classic, "Duck Soup" hilarious. I would rather see "Duck Soup" 5 more times than view "Animal Crackers" ever again. Not a total loss of 1 1/2 time, but don't expect any "mirror scenes", because this film doesn't have any.
I periodically revisit the Marx films to recharge my own desire for
creative anarchy. This time around, I became more aware of how unclever
this is AS FILM, and how clever they got later in the medium as fast
Its not anarchy yet. This and Coconuts were stage shows the brothers had been working on for years. The jokes aren't spontaneous, but polished over many iterations. This is filmed in New York by theater people who didn't know much about movies. The staging is theatrical and the camera stationary. The magic of the Marxes at this point is not the spontaneity, but the variety and energy of how they jump out of the convention. They wouldn't understand the convention of film for another couple years well enough to poke fun at it. But when they do, it changes film forever. That was genuine anarchy, where they really do "steal the pic."
This has some funny word gags. And it also is the only Marx film (I think I'm right) that has Lillian 'Butterfingers' Roth. She's pretty darn funny. Watch how she acts with her rubber neck and what she does with her eyes. I think I read that all these girls were sexual targets for Marxing and that she was special. Already, she was a depressive drunk I think.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
Animal Crackers (1930) is a sequel of sorts to their first film The
Cocanuts. Like the last film, Animals Crackers is nothing more than a
the Marx Brothers. Groucho, Harpo and Chico display their comical
talents whilst Zeppo plays the straight man. Not as great as their later
films with Zeppo but a must for any Marx Brothers fan. Watch Groucho
put on a one man show as he zings the stuff shirts with one-liners and
witty comebacks. This was the start of the Marx Brothers reign as one of
the best comedy team.
Mrs Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) holds a society party at which
Captain Spaulding (Groucho Marx) is the guest of honour and Roscoe
Chandler (Louis Sorin) will unveil a painting. There are 2 fake
paintings that also turn up at the house and the plot involves these 3
paintings being switched round.......the police are called as the
valuable original seems to have gone missing...
There are only 3 entertaining sections that last about 3 minutes each in this film: 1 - Chico playing the piano; 2 - Harpo dealing the cards at a Bridge game: 3 - Chico and Harpo hammering very loudly in the dark while trying to subtly steal the painting from the wall. That's your lot. The rest of the film is boring and it's too long. Margaret Dumont sounds like Anne Widdicombe, ie, she has a terrible voice and there is no real need for the insipid characters that play the romance story that runs simultaneously. Harpo has always creeped me out a little and that's what he does in this film. The brothers should have rehearsed something funny .......more practice needed....
I've always found it very hard to see the attraction of the Marx canon
Marx Brothers, that is. Their act seems to me to be of the kind that
one is likely to be treated to by gifted amateurs at a party, delivered
with an understandably embarrassed smile.
This installment is an operetta of sorts, with nouveau riche protagonists and singing staff, plus a chorus line of morons in swimsuits. The jokes are all delivered at breakneck speed, but not fast enough for my taste you can still catch most of them.
When they are not just silly puns, they're mild insults, requiring the various straight men and women to constantly register amusement, consternation and disorientation, instead of ending a pointless and boring conversation.
Well, one of these guys plays the piano, and another the harp, with the usual dire consequences for a captive audience, and they also seem to have prepared a few routines for our polite amusement.
The action (if you can call it that) conveniently takes place at such a party, where three identical paintings are being switched, stolen and returned simply riveting.
The guy with the mustache is supposedly so charming that the hostess finds him irresistible in spite of his constant derogatory remarks on her appearance and age and his designs on her money.
"Captain Spaulding," she exclaims, "you stand before me as one of the bravest men of all time!" So he stands before her.
Then there's a funny Italian and a bisexual rapist in a curly wig. None of these disgusting people ever seem to outstay their welcome at the house, although as far as I'm concerned they outstayed it just before the main titles.
"If I had any brains, I'd get a regular job," the leading man muses. I think I can safely say that goes for the entire cast.
The only marginally funny scene is a parody of Eugene O'Neill, who used to have even worse material. Let's face it: This can be of interest only to complete idiots and Woody Allen.
I'm sure this movie is great for Marx Bros. fans, but apparently I am not
one of them. This was my first full length Marx Bros. movie, and I found
to be irritating and unfunny. I love many of the movies of the 20's and
early 30's, so it's not from a lack of sensitivity to the movies of that
time. I also love Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Keaton, and other comedians of
silent and early-talkies era. However, something about the Marx Bros. (or
at least Animal Crackers) just didn't click for me.
Groucho is downright irritating with his non-stop, insulting banter. Just irritating. Someone should have decked the guy. Is he trying to impress us with how many jabs he can fit into 10 seconds or trying to make us laugh? I can see how Alan Alda's Mash (which I also found irritating) was greatly indebted to Groucho.
Harpo had funny moments, usually when he acted calm. But I typically found him to be just plain weird and unsettling. Okay...he's running around chasing girls with a crazed look on his face while honking a horn...yeah. Gee, I guess you just had to be there. I kept thinking he needed to be locked up, especially after he started shooting at everyone for no apparent reason. The other two brothers weren't as annoying, thankfully.
I think that one big difference between Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd vs. the Marx Bros. is that the former are doing *situation comedy* with relatively normal people in strange situations, while the Marx Bros. feature relatively strange people in normal situations. And perhaps the strange behavior that people find funny is more era-dependent. I wonder if that's why Chaplin films have held up so much better over time for most people than say Jerry Lewis films. I don't know. Certainly Lewis and Marx Bros. films have their share of physical comedy, so that's not the difference.
Well at least I can conclude that the Marx Bros. aren't for everyone.
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