Monkey Business (1952)

2011 #15
Howard Hawks | 93 mins | TV | U

Monkey BusinessMonkey Business came recommended in the Radio Times as a forgotten gem from the ’50s. Hm. And on DVD it’s branded as a Marilyn Monroe film. Hm.

Let’s take the second first: Monroe has a small supporting role. That’s fine, but it makes for some mighty misleading DVD packaging. Luckily that wasn’t why I watched the film. Why I watched the film was the first thing, the Radio Times recommendation. I’m not an expert on ’50s comedies, but I wasn’t convinced this was a “forgotten gem” so much as a decent-enough effort. Comedy-wise it’s daft and silly. That can work, obviously, but it didn’t work successfully enough in this instance, at least for my taste. It’s funny in places but not consistent enough.

It isn’t helped by the non-existent story arc. The plot sees a married couple accidentally take a youth serum the husband has been developing, causing them to inexplicably start acting younger — much younger. But in terms of the story, we see a happily married couple wind up happily married having been through no real strain. Maybe if they’d been having some differences and their childhood regressions had reminded them how much they really love each other or something, then it would’ve felt a bit more worthwhile. Or if the regressions had forced them apart — in a real way, rather than the brief and vague way it does once or twice — only for them to come back together via whatever means, maybe then it would have felt more coherent. Instead, the story consists of “Cary Grant behaves like a college boy” followed by “Ginger Rogers behaves like a stroppy newlywed” Getting up to... yeahfollowed by “Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers behave like 6-year-olds”.

There are good moments nonetheless — particularly the very meta opening titles — but not enough for my liking. It could do with a bit more speed too — compared to something like His Girl Friday it’s positively sluggish. Though I suppose it’s unfair to try comparing the average to the exceptional.

3 out of 5

Monkey Business featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2011, which can be read in full here.

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