Duck Soup Review
Duck Soup is a 1933 comedy movie directed by Leo McCarey and starring the Marx Brothers. It is a classic comedy movie that is deemed a masterpiece by critics and it is to me a solid, if flawed film.
It follows Rufus Firefly who wants to be the leader of the fictional country of Fredonia which is bankrupt and at the brink of war. Another subplot contains many gags and slapstick comedy by other Marx brothers. In terms of storytelling, Duck Soup is problematic. It is definitely politically sophisticated and quite clever and interesting, but all the subplots do not mash well together and the second half is seriously lacking. Yes, the biggest problem here is that the second half and most importantly the third act is pure action and war spectacle that isn’t as interesting and definitely not as funny as the previous sequences.
But the first half is really good and I especially liked the lemonade stand sequence, the mirror scene and the scenes in which all of the brothers are present. To me the first half is really good and even great as it is mostly quite funny and has some interesting and inventive gags and I only wish that the movie did not lose its steam which it unfortunately did near the end.
The characters are good and quite memorable. Rufus T. Firefly is definitely good and has his moments, but it is Pinky who gets the most laughs along with Chicolini. But Rufus is the best when in scenes with Mrs. Teasdale and Trentino where he is the funniest with his amusing insults and sexual innuendos. However, the other characters are all pretty forgettable.
The acting is of course superb with Groucho in particular being fantastic in his role and of course both Harpo and Chico are great as well. All three of them did a fine job and I only wish that there were more of Zeppo as he got the smallest amount of screen time. And the other actors and actresses are all pretty good.
The humor here is definitely good and the movie admittedly made me laugh several times with some particularly hilarious instances of genius dialogue. I loved the slapstick in it, despite taking too much of the running time. I also liked its anarchic comedy and comedy of manners as that is executed pretty well. And I especially liked the gags with some being incredibly inventive and clever. The sexual parts are also very funny along with the creative insults. But the second half is lacking in terms of humor and also some of the humor wasn’t for me as it was too forced and even too childish at times.
Duck Soup is good as a comedy, but somewhat weak as a war film. It has its moments and the action is well executed, but it is mostly uninspired and pretty forgettable. The acting is great and of course Leo McCarey did a fine job as a director. The tone isn’t that well handled, but the dialogue is mostly terrific and really memorable with many fantastic lines that stick with you. The pacing is okay, but not that great as it does drag near the end and the running time is too short. The humor is great and the film is clever, but it is also sometimes pretty conventional and childish in its slapstick. I did like its score and especially the musical elements as all of the songs are well choreographed and sung while also being catchy and all around fun. But the biggest problem remains the inferiority of the second half along with the war elements.
Duck Soup is really well made and superbly directed and acted, featuring quite good music and excellent humor with superb dialogue and many instantly recognizable and memorable lines, but the second half of the movie is lacking both in terms of humor and storytelling and the war elements aren’t as good. It is pretty good for the most part, but it eventually loses its steam which is unfortunate.
My Rating – 3.5
Interior & Exterior Stills from Duck Soup
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