The Good, the Bad, and the Critic

Review: Duck Soup

It’s not giraffe soup, peacock soup, or even chicken soup. Duck Soup is among the greatest comedies of all time, and is full of material that bends the rules whill still managing to leave modern audiences in stitches.

The Marx Brothers’ style of film was anarchic and madcap – outrageous for its time and full of slapstick. Its influence of vaudevillian and Yiddish comedy make it exceedingly different from the films made today. This Jewish humour was very popular in America during the 30’s, mainly because it was surreal, shocking, verbally outrageous, and nihilistic.

Duck Soup is an absurdist’s take on politics and warfare. Declare a war over a woman both leaders don’t really like all that much? Sure, why not! The film is easily the most iconic piece of filmography to come from the Marx Brothers, mainly because every scene is enjoyable and the entire thing can be re-watched over and over again. Groucho Marx himself is full of quotable smart-ass dialogue: “I got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.” His speech is at the mercy of insults and puns, yet he never seems limited by that. Duck Soup came at the right time in film history.

There is very little to dislike about the movie. Even the short musical numbers are energetic and entertaining. It can feel a bit dated, but I doubt that any 81-year-old film wouldn’t be. Considering it was made during the 30s, it was quite bold and ambitious.

If you think Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a comic masterpiece, then I encourage you to seek this out, as it is on a whole different level of genius.


Check out more of Michael’s reviews at, and catch a screening of Duck Soup at Cinematheque (100 Arthur Street) on Thursday, April 10 at 7 p.m.