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A Day at the Races Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 7+

Marx Bros.' big hit may miss with today's kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie isn't nonstop comedy. It's got a plethora of musical numbers that bring the action to a halt (if you're lucky, a Marx Brother or two will join the instrumentalizing). Don't be surprised if kids lose interest, or just watch in between careful fast-forwards. One of the livelier musical numbers, with an overwhelmingly black cast of performers, has the reputation of pandering to negative racial stereotypes. The plot glorifies gambling and horse racing.

  • Families can talk about why the movie's laughs come in such halting fashion. Do you agree with the greatest brains of 1930s Hollywood that audiences -- specifically women -- couldn't keep up with the brilliant comedians, and needed singing and dancing interludes? Is it true that only males go for the Three Stooges as well? What about TV variety shows like Saturday Night Live that break up the satirical skits with (usually) non-funny musical interludes. Do you think the "Who Dat Man?" frenetic swing number here, with Harpo and an otherwise all-black cast, is racist?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: The Marx Brothers are the anti-authoritarian underdogs while police and other authorities look like gangster henchmen. The threesome pulls off a number of scams and tricks, but in the interest of helping a virtuous pretty girl keep her clinic open. In one scene, they don blackface to hide from police. One musical number includes many African-American performers, but also includes some negative racial stereotypes.

What to watch for
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    Violence and scariness: Some slapstick roughhousing, and a horse who likes to kick things over.

  • sex false1

    Sexy stuff: Mild innuendo from Groucho.

  • language false0

    Language: Not an issue

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: References to a few 1930s products and sensations (like big-game hunter Frank Buck) don't mean much today.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Social drinking and smoking.