A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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.
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