Horse Feathers (The Marx Brothers, 1932)


It is a strange thing to try and review a Marx film on its own. I could comment with ease on their efforts holistically: time after time they produced stupidly funny films packed with one-line wit, visual gags and humorous sing-a-longs. They are always, quite simply, a joy to watch; a chance to escape from reality for about an hour at a time and just enjoy the jokes they manufacture before your eyes at a consistently high standard. With the exception of the standout Duck Soup, however, it’s hard to say much about any of their films individually, and Horse Feathers is no exception. It’s fair to say it is nowhere near their funniest film. It has its moments, such as when Groucho’s character recognises a contract he is having signed needs the addition of a ‘seal’ for it to be legally binding; Harpo dashes off, and returns with the floppy wet animal that is slapped onto the document. All in all, though, Horse Feathers (which, incidentally, is about a newly appointed school President trying to ensure his pupils win a football game, if you think it matters) fails to gain the rhythm and accumulate the momentum of repeated laughs acquired so easily by the Marx brothers’ more famous works. It’s fun, for sure, but it’s hard to imagine anyone getting hysterical over. Just bear that in mind and approach it with constrained expectations. Or just watch Duck Soup again.

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