Norman Z. Mcleod
Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 19 November 2004
Source Universal DVD
Monkey Business finds the four Marx Brothers as stowaways on a transatlantic cruise ship. Shortly after they are chased from their obvious hiding spaces (four very apparent barrels) Groucho has assumed the identity of the ship and stolen his lunch, while Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo become hitmen for opposing gangsters.
Throughout the film, the brothers are distrusted, regarded as uncultured attendants to this gathering of the upper class. They dress poorly, and have no etiquette. They’re also harmless. When Harpo chases a woman, it’s playful, and when a pitchfork is thrust in someone’s rear, we laugh. Perhaps the gangsters on board this ship appreciate such recalcitrance, but fail to justly evaluate the brothers’ efficiency as hitmen. The brothers are given guns, which are either pointed or held incorrectly. Within the first minute of following their boss, Harpo and Chico (who broaden their shoulders to look tough) lose him, and fall in stride with the next stranger who appears in front of them.
Monkey Business is not as tightly constructed as the brothers’ other films. It’s somewhat arbitrary and meandering. The setting, the ocean liner, has no utility in the comedy other than for Groucho to pester the ship’s captain. The resolution involving the gangsters is also forced and unrelated, but it is a fault to regard this film for its sum. As with many of the brothers’ films, many of its individual parts surpass the whole.