Review: Monkey Business (1952)

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Marilyn Monroe or Ginger Rogers, tough choice, but if some serum allows me the chance to get with Marilyn and not worry about the consequences you know what I’m doing!

Screenplay By: I.A.L. Diamond, Howard Hawks, Ben Hecht & Charles Lederer
Directed By: Howard Hawks

By 1952 the screwball comedy was a dying breed, many more would still be made but the heyday of the screwball comedy ended in the mid-1940’s. I believe Monkey Business is a good indicator of why the screwball comedy era ended. Monkey Business is a good movie, don’t get me wrong, and it is funny, but you can only try for the same joke so many times. The first time you see it, it’s pretty funny, the second time it’s moderately funny and by the third time it’s only funny in singular moments.

Cary Grant built a career around screwball comedies, which is funny to realize because I never think of him that way, yet his resume is littered with screwball comedies. He has great chemistry with Ginger Rogers, and they are both very good, but unsurprisingly the stand out of the cast is Marilyn Monroe. She is hardly in the picture, but she steals every scene she is in. The camera understands her and it understands how to film her. It utilizes her sex appeal to the fullest and the script makes utmost use of Monroe’s penchant for comedic timing. That’s not to say she is the driving force of the movie, because without the chemistry between Grant and Rogers there is no Monkey Business, but when onscreen she outshines the rest of the cast.

As it stands Monkey Business is a film full of moments that miss their mark and moments that are funny. Monkey Business is more along the lines of a movie that can be distilled down to a few moments rather than a cohesive whole. The conversation between Rogers and Grant after he has first come down from his concoction is funny, Rogers acting like an eight year old isn’t. The kids war party is very funny, the sequences with the monkey not no much. Rogers and Grant are funny when dealing with the baby, the rest of the staff succumbing to the potion fails to register any laughs. And so on and so forth, Monkey Business is a film defined by the jokes that work and the ones that don’t.

This isn’t the film that you need to go out and see, but it is a must for any Marilyn Monroe fan. There is a good amount of witty sexual dialogue, and the movie is surprisingly better in the moments of smart comedy rather than the moments of screwball comedy, oh and don’t forget that awful rear projection car crash! But, Monkey Business is funny, it may lose its steam and fall flat at times, but on the whole it is funny and that’s all you need from a movie like this.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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