Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Horse Feathers

This was a very early effort for the Marx Bros., back when Zeppo would still show up on camera to be his usual bland self. Like those earlier efforts, it works almost more like a cabaret effort than a normal film, so it’s definitely not going to be for everyone. However, for those of you that don’t mind a comedy with a bare-bones plot and frequent musical interludes, you may just find a gem here.

The story, like all Marx films, is thoroughly ridiculous, and features Groucho as the new head honcho at a college where his son (Zeppo) is currently attending for seemingly no reason beyond access to girls. The college really functions as little more than a framing device to hang such scenes as a verbal duel at a speakeasy and a climactic football match on, but it functions well enough.

If you haven’t seen a film by the Marx Bros., here’s what you can expect: there’s a great deal of verbal humor, primarily from Groucho and Chico, a few songs sung by Groucho and Zeppo, a piano number by Chico, and a harp number by (wait for it) Harpo. It’s a very different style of movie from what you’d expect to see nowadays, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s goofy, charming, and unabashedly silly, and still manages to have some real bite to its humor, moreso than a lot of tragically “safer” comedies nowadays have. It’s not quite a masterpiece, but it is definitely worth a view.

Rating: ** ½

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