Captain Spaulding, the noted explorer, returns from Africa and attends a gala party held by Mrs. Rittenhouse. A painting displayed at that party is stolen, and the Marxes help recover it. Well, maybe 'help' isn't quite the word I was looking for--this is the Marx Brothers, after all...Written by
Ken Yousten <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Animal Crackers is one of the best films ever done by the 4 Marx Brothers. For a start, the comedy completely works on screen, especially considering that the film was adapted from the musical stage play. And although Zeppo's comedy has always been underrated and underplayed in the five films that the 4 Marx Brothers did for Paramount Pictures, he proves in this film, as well as the four other movies he appeared with Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, that the 4 Marx Brothers made better films when the four of them worked together; as opposed to when it was just Groucho, Chico and Harpo. All the Marx Brothers films which included Zeppo were zanier films and, to me, the best of their work. Verbally, Groucho is at his razor-sharp best in Animal Crackers, with almost every one-liner dripping with comedic insults and sarcasm. Chico and Harpo perfectly add to the mayhem. The direction by Victor Heerman showed the type of skill needed to professionally control the 4 Marx Brothers to make Animal Crackers the tremendous success that it was. Though the Great Depression was taking hold on the American psyche in 1930, Animal Crackers was the perfect comedy which allowed ordinary Americans to enjoy the spoofing of America's 'Hoi Polloi'.
Though the 4 Marx Brothers' succeeding films (Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup) were even more of the Hollywood film-style comedy successes which crystalized their zaniness and on-screen craziness, one should not underestimate the cinematography of George Folsey, Sr., who made the film look like a movie written especially for the screen. The look of the film (specifically the sets) makes one feel like he or she wished they had been invited to Mrs. Rittenhouse's party in honor of Captain Spaulding. Lillian Roth never looked better, and the best song in the film is her musical number with Hal Thompson, "Why Am I So Romantic?" - which was the theme music for the entire movie. Animal Crackers is one of my favorite films that the 4 Marx Brothers did for Paramount Pictures - although all five films made at Paramount are absolute gems. I strongly suggest getting the Marx Brothers' Silver Screen Collection, which is now on DVD. They are a must for your film library!
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