Well, I've been in the mood for watching some Marx Brothers films lately, so I figured I would start adding my thoughts to these as well. Unfortunately, I do not think that THE COCOANUTS is a very good place to start. My major complaint is that the Marx Brothers do not feel that well incorporated into the movie. That's not to say that they aren't in a lot of it, because they are, but they don't really feel that well included in the plot. Groucho is off doing his own thing early in the film while Harpo and Chico's role, though important, is basically just coming across the scheme by chance. The Marx Brothers don't even interact with the romantic leads until 2/3 of the way through the film, unlike in A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, in which they're all working together from the beginning.
The songs are really forgettable, which is surprising considering that they were composed by Irving Berlin, the man who wrote "White Christmas." The only song in this entire film that I found memorable was "The Tale of a Shirt," mainly for how bizarre it was, especially considering that this was being sung by a serious character. Harpo and Chico's solos are good, although once again, Harpo's does not feel that well incorporated into the film. Whereas Chico's is part of the entertainment at the wedding, Harpo's comes at the most random of times, at a point when you don't expect it at all.
The story itself seems pretty flawed as well. For example, there's a moment where they accuse the male romantic lead of stealing the necklace and they ask him why he bought the lot. He refuses so the detective correctly assumes that it's for a woman, but he refuses to say who the woman is despite the fact that he is holding her hand and talking to her. Am I missing something here? Why wouldn't he say why he really wanted the lot?
So, yeah, the film has a considerable amount of problems, but at the heart of it we still do have the Marx Brothers doing what they do best. Zeppo unfortunately doesn't get to do much and really isn't in it that long, but the other three are a lot of fun. The "why a duck" routine, of course, is a classic and the scene where they're all in the hotel lobby is very energetic and fun to watch. The Marx Brothers are a very good combination of verbal humor with visual humor in terms of their characterizations, with Groucho being the best at the verbal humor, Harpo at the visual humor, and Chico being a good combination of both. Harpo's probably my favorite in this. Every time he's on screen he's just a ton of fun to watch. One of my favorite moments is when they find the necklace and the detective notes how crazy Harpo is only for him to row himself away.
Also to the film's credit, while it feels pretty unbalanced, every now and then there is a decent dramatic scene. I really do like the scene where Harpo gives the girl the lollipop. It's silly, but also kind of cute, and I think a good example of the idea that the Marx Brothers are willing to be nice to the people who deserve it.
The film feels like it's an uneven balance of story with the Marx Brothers, but when the Marx Brothers are on screen just being themselves, it still works pretty well. Even from their first film, they are really funny and it does help to make up for some of the film's problems. It's not necessarily a bad film, just kind of misguided in which direction it wants to go, whether it be more serious or comedic, rather than finding a good middle ground. Overall, it is just an average film at best, but if you are a Marx Brothers fan, I think that you'll get at least a bit of entertainment out of this.
6 out of 10