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Monkey Business (1952)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's very little of concern here. A married couple exchanges a few brief kisses, and the only other kiss is on the cheek. There's some roughhouse play and a couple of slaps on the face. The premise involves a chemist researching a formula, which he tests on himself and on chimpanzees. The chimpanzees are seen in cages and out of them performing human-like tasks as well as causing trouble the way a misbehaving child would, for comic effect. Some children are shown playing Cowboys and Indians with dated depictions of Native American culture now widely regarded as offensive, and Barnaby appears in a few scenes wearing what's supposed to be war paint.
What's the story?
Dr. Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant) is tired of his job developing chemicals for commercial products and wants a more academic job. When a formula he's been working on shows promising signs of reversing the aging process, he decides that the only way to find out if it really works is to try it himself. Of course it works, and too well. Can he remember the formula in time to prepare an antidote, or will he and his wife Edwina (Ginger Rogers) stay kids for the rest of their lives?
Is it any good?
MONKEY BUSINESS has everything going for it: a fantastic cast, a stellar director, plus monkeys! Unfortunately it doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. It could be that the early scenes establishing the comfortable, middle-aged relationship between Barnaby and Edwina are a little too comfortable and last a little too long. It's almost certainly in part because modern audiences won't find a chimpanzee performing human tasks funny in itself: We've learned too much about chimpanzees since then to find absurd humor in having a chimp pour liquid from one container into another.
Kids will have a hard time relating to the premise about older people wanting to be young again, and though might be briefly entertained by the chimpanzee shenanigans, there's not much else for them to especially appreciate here. Those obsessed with "old Hollywood" will enjoy seeing Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers together. They seem to be having fun, and in middle age are still great with the physical stuff. But the supporting cast is weak (except for Marilyn Monroe, who of course sparkles while playing it straight) and the writing's a little flat in that it seldom zeroes in on what's really funny. If you're looking for real laughs, stick with Bringing Up Baby.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's great about being young, and what's great about being old. Which would you rather be? Why?
Barnaby tests his formula on chimpanzees. Do you think it's OK for people to test things on animals before testing them on humans? Why or why not?
What makes this movie a "screwball comedy?" Have you seen any other screwball comedies? Did you like this one as well as any others you've seen?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.