Starring: Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn
Director: George Stevens
Running Time: 104 mins
The More The Merrier is an American film about a woman who rents half of her apartment to a man who then rents half of his half to another, all in the midst of a housing shortage in Washington D.C.
An enjoyable satire of contemporary US society at the height of World War Two, The More The Merrier delivers good laughs and a fun story. Starting brilliantly as a chaotic comedy of errors, the film does slow down a little too much later on, as it takes a slightly more dramatic shift, but it’s still an entertaining watch to the finish.
Of course, any film made at the height of the Second World War is going to have direct links to the conflict, and as such all-out slapstick and farce isn’t really to be expected. For a film that starts off with the fun factor of the likes of Bringing Up Baby, the fact that The More The Merrier doesn’t keep things up all the way through may prove a little disappointing.
But when it’s at its funniest, this film is an absolute joy. With hilarious back-and-forth between its lead trio, it’s a delightfully witty comedy of errors with laughs and confusion abundant.
Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn are fantastic as the odd triple stuck in a bizarre housing arrangement, with chemistry that gives the film great energy throughout. And with that, as well as providing some good laughs through the earlier stages, you begin to really connect with the characters.
That connection plays strongly into the film’s more satirical side, looking at housing shortages in the big city during the war, as well as the potentially unexpected effects of participating in the war effort. All of the leads are perfectly lovable, and a joy to watch, but their varying motivations and situations make those central satirical themes fully captivating.
The problem with The More The Merrier, however, is that it really does slow down to a crawl in its latter stages. There’s nothing wrong with taking a shift towards the slightly more dramatic, but the film doesn’t really back it up with enough narrative depth, and as such the final act really isn’t that engaging.
The dynamic between the lead trio is still fun, although with the introduction of a new character later on, it doesn’t quite have the same energy as in the early stages.
As a result, The More The Merrier doesn’t really finish on the high that it could have done by keeping up its immense energy and humour. It’s almost the opposite of the delightful farce I Was A Male War Bride, which just becomes sillier and sillier as it goes on, and even though the story isn’t amazing, its humour makes it great fun right to the finish.
The More The Merrier certainly starts strongly, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing in the end, and finishes on an underwhelming note. The performances are great throughout, the film’s energy and humour in the early stages is delightful, but its turn towards a more dramatic atmosphere late on doesn’t really work. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4 overall.