Monday, June 8, 2015

AFI Top 100, #85: "Duck Soup" (1933)

Movie Stats:
Released 1933 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Leo McCarey
Stars - The Marx Brothers, Louis Calhern

Plot Summary:
When Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is appointed the new ruler of Freedonia, he must battle the machinations of the Sylvanian ambassador, Trentino (Calhern). Zeppo co-stars as Firefly’s secretary, Bob Roland; and Chico and Harpo as a pair of spies hired by Trentino, Chicolini and Pinky.

Minor, non-graphic violence; one use of a word that’s considered a racial slur today, although, to be honest, I didn’t get that particular joke & wasn’t sure if he was referencing the race in question or not.

Bad Stuff:
A lot of Groucho’s humor is very mean-spirited, which I don’t like.

I also didn’t like Harpo’s style of humor, which, in addition to often being mean-spirited, is completely over-the-top goofy (very clown-like). Whenever I see a character behave like him, I always think to myself, “In real life, that guy would get punched in the nose.”

The film felt really disjointed to me. There was the barest hint of a plot, and it felt like Groucho kind of wandered into the middle of it and started spouting off pithy one-liners. Then cut to Chico and Harpo, doing goofy things. Then singing! I found the whole thing fairly baffling.

Good Stuff:
Despite all of the above, there were quite a few times that I laughed.

I loved the women’s costuming.

The Verdict:
This is my first Marx Brothers film. I think I’ve discovered that I’m not a Marx Brothers fan. It’s only 68 minutes long, but it seemed like an eternity to me. This just isn’t my kind of humor. I absolutely loathe mean-spirited jokes, i.e. when people say really awful things to each other and I’m supposed to find it funny. I don’t think it’s funny at all. However, I recognize that this is a personal preference. As the popularity of shows/movies such as “Seinfeld,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and “Meet the Parents” can attest, lots of people love this style of humor. I’m reluctant to give this film as low of a rating as I’d like, because I know my own tastes run counter to the majority of people. Therefore, I’m going to cut it some slack. 

I give the movie 3 stars.


Patricia said...

Interesting that you put "Seinfeld" in the same boat as "Meet the Parents." I don't find Seinfeld mean-spirited at all. Whereas "Meet the Parents" was all about putting Ben Stiller in uncomfortable situations.

I think what is considered funny changes from generation to generation. I've seen one Marx brothers movie and they were not my cup of tea.

Interestingly I saw more of Harpo than anyone else when I was growing up because he is in an episode of "I Love Lucy" (another series that I can't watch because it is too sexist). Lucy and he do the mirror thing. I remember really liking it when I was a kid, but I had no idea who Harpo Marx was.

balyien said...

Oh, I think Seinfeld is very mean-spirited. I wouldn't say that the main characters are especially mean to each other, but they're very mean to the tertiary people in their sphere. Which is not to say that I don't occasionally find it funny. The masturbation episode is one of my favorite TV episodes of any show ever.

I'd totally forgotten about Harpo on "I Love Lucy"! That's one of those shows I watched reluctantly as a kid. Like, nothing else was on, so we watched it. I probably haven't seen an episode in 30 years.