Monkey Business

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Our rating: four lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Monkey Business
"Gee Mister Grant, what a swell car!"
We just keep coming back to Cary Grant. He's the Old Faithful of actors -- never afraid to look foolish, always delivering his lines just right, and making his way through each picture, somehow, with his dignity (or at least the appearance of dignity) intact. Plus, chicks dig him and he's fun to imitate.

Our friend Jyotika keeps coming back to him, too. For example, both of the films she chose for the two Film Series that she has taken part in have starred Cary Grant. First Charade, and now this film, Monkey Business. Do we fault her for her fixation on Grant? Of course not! He's a pleasure to watch! (The fact that each film also had beautiful leading ladies didn't hurt her case, either.)

Grant's character in this Howard Hawks comedy is Barnaby Fulton, a chemist working to create a "formula of youth" for his company. Although he hasn't perfected the formula, his boss encourages him to continue his experiments with chimps in the hopes that he can create a real money-maker. The boss, Mr. Oxley, also has a personal stake in Fulton's success: he's getting on in years, and despite his choice of secretaries (Marilyn Monroe), he simply doesn't have the youthful appetites of yesteryear.

Here is where we encounter one of those important rules of Hollywood: chimps are mischievious and, given the chance, will perform miracles behind the backs of their human keepers. Case in point: one of the chimps gets loose and starts to play with Barnaby's chemicals.

Pop Quiz: What will the chimp make out of these chemicals?
If you answered "Flubber," you're thinking of the wrong movie.
If you answered "Viagra," you're close, but no cigar.
If you answered "the youth formula," you have a very good grasp of the Hollywood chimp rule of which we speak.

Monkey Business
"Now if you don't mind, I'm going
to let this chimp run around unsupervised
in the lab for a while."
Of course, before anyone realizes what the chimp has made, the formula is accidentally added to the lab's water cooler. Whenever anyone drinks one of Barnaby's bitter-tasting attempts at the formula, they then get a dose of the real McCoy by drinking water from the tank. This is comedy in the making, folks!

When Barnaby takes the formula he not only physically becomes a college student, but mentally one as well. He goes out and gets a "hip" haircut. Unfortunately for those of us watching the film in the late 1990's, his hip haircut is indistinguishable from his normal one. He buys a hip suit of clothes. Unfortunately for those of us watching the film in the late 1990's, his hip suit is indistinguishable from his normal one. He leaves the auto dealer with a hip car. Unfortunately for those of us watching the film in the late 1990's, his hip car is indistinguishable from his normal one. Finally, he hooks up with a hip girl. Fortunately for those of us watching the film in the late 1990's, his hip girl is Marilyn Monroe! Barnaby visits general chaos around town (and upon his aging body) until the formula wears off.

Then his wife, Edwina (Ginger Rogers) takes it. (Where did these names come from?) Then they both takes a really big dose of it. And then at the end of the movie, a bunch of people take it. Of course, this is the usual progression in a screwball comedy of this type.

The performances by Grant and Rogers make this film as appealing as it is. Not only are they convincing as the happy middle-aged married couple who stop in the middle of meals to act mushy and romantic*, but they also managed to make us believe that they were young again. Rogers was especially good at this, but she always managed to appear and act younger than she was in all of her movies. Once again, Cary Grant sacrifices himself for our enjoyment, taking a classic spill on roller skates during his youthful spree.

What was most remarkable about Monkey Business was the fact that it actually managed to slip a little bit of a serious story in on us. The experiences that Barnaby and Edwina each have with their "younger" spouse bring some tension into the marriage. The resulting arguments between the two form the basis for Barnaby's eventual rejection of his quest for a youth formula, and his even firmer commitment to Edwina. It's a nice little subplot that introduces a near-catfight between Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe, which is funny just to think about.

Monkey Business is evidence of things that Hollywood studios lost years ago: some excellent actors (Rogers was the last principal to die, in 1995), the art of the madcap comedy, and the ability to film a truly humorous scene with a chimpanzee. Unfortunately, that chimpanzee aspect is the one they're most likely to regain first.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 6/19/98

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*Actually, they did this several times in the film, prompting the following remark from our friend Tanya:

"They have to eat SOMETIME. You can't keep [making love] if ya don't eat!"