Brain Donors (1992)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Absurd Comedy, Farce, Showbiz Comedy, Slapstick  |   Run Time - 79 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Dan Friedman

The word to best describe Brain Donors is silly. That's the overriding sense one gets from watching this thinly disguised remake of the Marx Brothers classic A Night At the Opera, although silly in itself is not necessarily a bad thing where this film is concerned. It suffers in comparison to its inspiration, but that is more or less a given. John Turturro assumes the Groucho role as Roland T. Flakfizer, the name itself another Marxian homage to Duck Soup's Rufus T. Firefly, and seems to be having a good time with the role. Bob Nelson plays the physical comedy Harpo role with some degree of success, but proves he's much funnier as a standup comic than as an actor. British comedian Mel Smith rounds out the trio as the scalawag Chico character, and Nancy Marchand stands in for Margaret Dumont as the main foil for Turturro and company. Dennis Dugan directs with a strong sense of humor, but it's clear that he realizes the challenge he faces. To his credit, he manages to partially succeed. What's refreshing about Brain Donors is the attempt to recapture some of the old zany Marx madness in a comedy clearly meant for an audience to pay attention to the verbal wordplay, but that proves to be its downfall as well since there is no real way to improve on the original and today's audiences are no longer geared toward that type of humor. There are a lot of good sight gags thrown about in an attempt to compensate, particularly from Nelson, but you get the idea that Turturro is a bit out of his element, and, rather than flow from situational gag to gag, some of the jokes feels forced. It's a very good piece of mindless entertainment if that's what's desired, but as the Marx Brothers proved time and time again, the silliest fluff can really be extremely sophisticated at its roots.