Horse Feathers

Movie review by
Randy White, Common Sense Media
Horse Feathers Movie Poster Image
The Marx Brothers at their wacky best.
  • NR
  • 1932
  • 67 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Everything is played for humor, sometimes at someone's expense. For example, as the College Widow attempts to work her wiles, Groucho says that he will "kick all her teeth right down her throat" -- definitely a quip from another age.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Reflecting the time in which the movie was made, African Americans are portrayed only as servants. Women are portrayed as dolls or act like silly school girls to get what they want.

Violence & Scariness

Comic punches.

Sexy Stuff

This is pre-code 1930s Hollywood, and there's a fair bit of sexual double entendre. Much of it will go over the head of younger children.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that kids will be exposed to a fair bit of sexual double entendre. Much of it will go over the heads of younger children. African Americans in the movie are all servants and women are scheming and sexually manipulative.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byobelix April 9, 2008

This is the Marx Brothers

Sure there are some double entendres, but your kids won't catch them, as they are well out-of-date(1931). No sexual scenes and no violence (well, maybe a... Continue reading
Adult Written byBobslob April 9, 2008

I didnt get it

Why does everyone think the Marks brothers are so funny? I tihnk the only part I got was the joke that Grouchy Marks made about the girl that he was talking ab... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Filled with comic mayhem, this early Marx Brothers effort is considered one of their best, and most subversive movies. Huxley College has a new president in Professor Wagstaff (Groucho) who responds to all notions of how to make things better by singing "I'm against it." President Wagstaff needs to have a winning football season if he wants to survive at Huxley. Wagstaff's son (Zeppo) sends Wagstaff off to a speakeasy (a bar) to recruit two stars players, but he brings back Baravelli (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo) by mistake. Meanwhile, Wagstaff's son is still seeing the "College Widow," who is working as a spy for a rival college. At this point, madcap mayhem eclipses coherence, but let's just say that Wagstaff is able to prevent the team's secret signals from being stolen and the Huxley squad, led by the four Brothers, are victorious in the big game.

Is it any good?

Be forewarned, this stuff may be a hard sell for contemporary kids; they either get the Marx Brothers or they don't. At least that was the case with two young viewers, a 13-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy. The 13-year-old was unimpressed by the pandemonium and thought Groucho "just smirked all the time." Meanwhile, the 10-year-old laughed repeatedly at the verbal gymnastics -- even when he wasn't quite sure why they were funny. Neither really got that the Brothers were poking fun at authority, and they both wanted to fast forward through Harpo's physical comedy routines.

The musical numbers are definite highlights. "I'm Against It" is Groucho at his best, irreverent and wacky, leading the whole school in the mayhem. His later "I Love You" is also charming. Some find the Marx Brothers to be anarchic comic geniuses, others find them unbearably smug. And it seems to be true that boys find this type of humor more appealing than girls. But if parents want to introduce their kids to the Brothers' unique sense of humor, HORSE FEATHERS is a good choice.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how movie humor has changed and remained the same since the 1930s. Do today's comedies use as much physical humor as this one? What about the songs?

Movie details

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