Director: Leo McCarey
Starring: Groucho Marx and Harpo Marx
While a lot of the Charlie Chaplin pictures on this list might feel too antiquated to the casual modern viewer to be good for much, the Marx Brothers' rambunctious style of comedy – one which combines classic vaudevillian slapstick with carefully measured witticisms and biting satire – remains accessible and, more importantly, hilarious even today. Duck Soup is the only Marx Brothers film that made its way onto the Top 250, and while it isn't considered their finest hour by the troupe's most devoted cultists, it's an excellent entry point to their work and a fine movie in its own right.
Duck Soup finds Groucho Marx taking over as president of the fictitious nation of Freedonia and waging war on neighboring Sylvania so that he can wed, and eventually take the money of, the pompous Mrs. Teasdale. The plot doesn't particularly matter since it just exists as a vessel for the Brothers' hysterical satire about war, espionage and bureaucracy, Groucho's plentiful blink-and-you'll-miss-'em one-liners about Mrs. Teasdale, and a whole lot of physical comedy gags involving Harpo and Chico. That sounds like an oversimplification, but it really isn't. I don't mean that as an insult at all, though. If you consider that more comedies are made than films of any other genre, and that this one, which was released in 1933, has found itself being judged as one of the 250 greatest movies of all time, it should be clear that the humor in it is top-notch. Like most Marx Brothers films, Duck Soup is infinitely rewatchable, sidesplittingly hilarious, and by the grace of God (and Netflix), extremely easy to find.
Seeing as it is a 68 minute silly comedy, there isn't necessarily a lot to blog about. Sure, I could overanalyze its message as an anti-war film – which I don't believe it has – or the poignancy of Groucho's satire in the sensitive political times that the film was released during, but I won't. Instead, I'll suggest that you find a copy of the movie, whether instantly on Netflix or via a physical copy, watch it, laugh the entire time, and thank me afterward.
The Good: Funnier than 99% of the comedies that come out today, and made with a 1933 sense of humor. Of all the great comedy in the film, Groucho's one-liners are by far the best part.
The Bad: Too short! I mean, it might run long in the tooth if it topped 100 minutes, but they could have easily milked it for more than 68.
The Skinny: I can't believe it's only #221, and I can't believe that it's the only Marx Brothers picture on the list. Needs to be much higher, and needs to be joined by Animal Crackers and A Night at the Opera.