Just what was the Marx brothers' obsession with animals anyway? 'Horse Feathers', 'Duck Soup', 'Monkey Business' and this one. There no ducks in 'Duck Soup', no monkeys in 'Monkey Business' and no animals in 'Animal Crackers'. But there are laughs a-plenty in one of their better offerings, that just falls short of the classic mark.'A Night At The Opera' and 'Duck Soup' are the best Marx brothers' films because they set up the plot within the first five minutes and then let the brothers run riot. 'Monkey Business' failed on this level because it hampered them with a plot that actually required working out amidst the anarchy and you could feel the strain of Groucho, Chico and Harpo itching to cut loose. 'Animal Crackers' is not one of their best because it's too long with one too many dreary musical interludes, but it avoids the pitfalls of 'Monkey Business' by letting them essentially do what they want without sacrificing the plot. It basically consists of a lot of manic running about, with killing quips being fired out at every possible moment.
Groucho is African explorer Captain Spaulding returning home to a party in his honour thrown by Mrs Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont). Harpo is the Professor and Chico his assistant, Ravelli. Who's Zeppo? I don't care and neither will you. But at the party a famous painting is stolen with an obvious fake put in its place, and Spaulding leads the investigation before the police.
For a Marx brothers film, it's quite plot heavy but director Heerman never lets this get in the way. He drops in only the most vital of plot elements, and even then in only small doses (although he should have really got rid of Harpo's interminable harp solo. It wouldn't be the last one he'd do and they never got any better or more interesting).
Heerman understands that we're here to see Groucho, Chico and Harpo and not a mystery and so just lets them play out the film as they want to. Although it's still over-stretched at over an hour and a half (even the Marx brothers can't be THAT funny for THAT long), the dull patches are rare and hardly noticeable amongst the many highlights we get instead. After all, this is the film that gave us Groucho's most famous quote: "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know. ".I' m not going to list every single great moment that's in here, because where would the fun be for you dear reader? Just trust me when I say it's damn funny and I'll leave you with one last thought: "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, which doesn't say much for you."