The Marx Brothers return yet again, and this time in a film that is slightly better than “Animal Crackers” but still not quite at the quality of “Duck Soup.”
The reason I say “Duck Soup” is the best Marx Brothers film is because it has the most memorable sequences and unforgettable bits of comedy. To this day, the mirror sequence still cracks me up and Chico and Harpo interacting with the street vendor puts both of their styles of comedy on full display. Combine this with an amusing and somewhat-timeless story about a dictatorship run by a moron and you get a comedy that still holds up more than eighty years later.
“Animal Crackers” had some great sequences, especially the one between Groucho and Zeppo, where the lesser known Marx Brother has to translate a note for Groucho. But there was a lot of focus on secondary characters that goes no where and the acting from those characters is less than stellar. There are also large gaps in the film that went no where, like a five-minute scene of Harpo Marx playing the harp (Oh, now I get it).
“A Night At The Opera” hits a nice middle ground, where it has several secondary characters, but they’re somewhat interesting this time and are played by competent actors, especially the leading lady being played by a young Kitty Carlisle. The relationship between her and another young man is naïve yet refreshing to see, as they sing boisterous songs for one another with so much fiery passion that its hard not to be investing in their chemistry.
But of course, the Marx Brothers are the reason to watch this film, and they offer some priceless segments in “A Night At The Opera.” There is no Zeppo in this one, but each of the other brothers stands out even more now. The scene I loved the most was finding out that Groucho’s room aboard this fancy ocean liner is basically a broom closet, while his luggage takes up more than half the room. But as the scene progresses, we find out he hid three people in his luggage and they want food. Groucho ends up ordering so much food that it takes about six chefs to bring it all in, all while more people come to fix up the room and give Groucho a manicure.
There’s also a great scene between Groucho and Chico where they discuss a contract, with the print being so small that they keep taking turns trying to decipher the code. They also keep tearing up the contract when they discuss issues that they deem irrelevant until they’re left with nothing but scraps of different sizes, causing much confusion.
Overall, I enjoyed “A Night At The Opera” more than I did “Animal Crackers,” if only because this one felt more believable and had better pacing. This one kept most of the focus on the Marx Brothers, but gave us a great partnership between its romantic leads. The comedic sequences are memorable and showcase the variety that the Marx Brothers had.
Final Grade: B+