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The Meaning of Life (1983)

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The comedy team takes a look at life in all its stages in their own uniquely silly way.
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Chairman / Fish #1 / Doctor / Harry Blackitt / Wymer / Hordern / General / Coles / Narrator #2 / Dr. Livingstone / Transvestite / Eric / Guest #1 / Arthur Jarrett / Geoffrey / Tony Bennett
...
Fish #2 / Dr. Spencer / Humphrey Williams / Sturridge / Ainsworth / Waiter / Eric's Assistant / Maître D' / Grim Reaper
...
Window Washer / Fish #4 / Walters / Middle of the Film Announcer / M'Lady Joeline / Mr. Brown / Howard Katzenberg
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Gunther / Fish #3 / 'Meaning of Life' Singer / Mr. Moore / Mrs. Blackitt / Watson / Blackitt / Atkinson / Perkins / Victim #3 / Front End / Mrs. Hendy / Man in Pink / Noël Coward / Gaston / Angela
...
Bert / Fish #6 / Mum / Priest / Biggs / Sergeant / Man with Bendy Arms / Mrs. Brown / Mr. Creosote / Maria / Leaf Father / Fiona Portland-Smythe
...
Window Washer / Harry / Fish #5 / Mr. Pycroft / Dad / Narrator #1 / Chaplain / Carter / Spadger / Regimental Sergeant Major / Pakenham-Walsh / Rear End / Female TV Presenter / Mr. Marvin Hendy / Governor / Leaf Son / Debbie Katzenberg
...
Beefeater Waitress / Wife of Guest #1 / Leaf Mother / Leaf Daughter / Heaven Receptionist
...
...
Mrs. Williams
...
Nurse #1
Andrew MacLachlan ...
Groom / Wycliff / Victim #1 / Guest #3
Mark Holmes ...
Victim #2 / Troll Waiter / Guest #2
Valerie Whittington ...
Jennifer Franks ...
Bride
Imogen Bickford-Smith ...
Nurse #2 (as Imogen Bickford Smith)
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Storyline

Why are we here, what's it all about? The Monty Python-team is trying to sort out the most important question on Earth: what is the meaning of life? They do so by exploring the various stages of life, starting with birth. A doctor seems more interested in his equipment than in delivering the baby or caring for the mother, a Roman Catholic couple have quite a lot of children because 'every sperm is sacred'. In the growing and learning part of life, catholic schoolboys attend a rather strange church service and ditto sex education lesson. Onto war, where an officer's plan to attack is thwarted by his underlings wanting to celebrate his birthday and an officer's leg is bitten off by presumably an African tiger. At middle age a couple orders 'philosophy' at a restaurant, after which the film continues with live organ transplants. The autumn years are played in a restaurant, which, after being treated to the song 'Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?' by an entertainer, sees the arrival ... Written by Arnoud Tiele (imdb@tiele.nl)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

What it is, Where it is, and how to avoid treading in it [Video Australia] See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 April 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$9,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (2003 restored director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The kids who sang in the "Every Sperm is Sacred" sketch later said they had no idea what they were singing about. See more »

Goofs

In the classroom scene, the young student seated in the rear right corner appears and disappears three times. See more »

Quotes

Humphrey: Oh, no, do share your little joke with the rest of the class.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Not the Production Accountant....................Steve Abbott See more »


Soundtracks

Oh Lord Please Don't Burn Us
Lyrics by John Cleese & Graham Chapman
Music by Eric Idle & John Du Prez
Performed by Michael Palin, John Cleese and chorus
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A great comedy which may be crass and rude, but is not lacking in typical Python wit
11 January 2008 | by (prejudicemadeplausible.wordpress.com) – See all my reviews

The best thing about "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" is without a doubt the short film that opens it. Directed by Terry Gilliam and originally conceived as an animated sequence, "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" is a crucial step in Gilliam's career as a director. His previous two solo efforts as director, the inconsequential "Jabberwocky" and the brilliant-in-its-own-way "Time Bandits" saw him developing his visual style much further than he did for his scenes for "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", with "Time Bandits" arguably being the first 'Gilliam-esque' film he made. Still, "Time Bandits" didn't see his style fully developed, and "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" is an even more bizarre film, but with a far more confident and clear-cut visual style. Simply put: Gilliam was ready for "Brazil". This segment is the best in the film from a cinematic viewpoint, without a doubt, and even gives some of the other segments a run for their money in terms of the quality of the comedy, which involves office clerks who become pirates. Yes, it is quite strange.

The issue a lot of people have with "The Meaning of Life" is that it is crass and rude and even sillier than the Python standard. It's shock humor, but for the majority of the sections of the film work so well and are so clever even in their lack of class that I would not hesitate to put "The Meaning of Life" on the same level as "Life of Brian", though it's not as good as "Monty Python & The Holy Grail". That's not to say this isn't 'Python-esque', because it's very much so, they're just completely liberated by the medium of film to say and do whatever they please. Indeed, there's something in here to offend nearly anyone, but there's also a fair bit in here to please everyone, even a wonderful scene in which Gilliam's 'supporting feature' "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" suddenly intrudes on the events of the film.

"The Meaning of Life" is constructed as a series of skits, and though many have suggested that it is hence not as much of a narrative movie as their previous two efforts. I tend to disagree with this viewpoint. Yes, this film is a series of skits, but they are all elaborately set up within an overarching 'commentary' on the general theme of the movie, the title. There is one section of the film which is both entirely unnecessary and honestly quite bad is 'The Autumn Years', an unfunny and vile piece centered around Terry Jones in a fat-suit repeatedly vomiting and eventually exploding. Basically all of the rest of the film is very, very funny, and even the jokes which fall flat within scenes like "Live Organ Transplants" and "Death" don't go terribly wrong because the overall quality of the scenes and sections are so high and the concepts behind them very funny. Gilliam's animations work excellently within the film and this would sadly be the last time we saw a distinctive Gilliam animation within a major film.

"The Meaning of Life" is great comedy. It's crass and rude and goes for cheap humor often, but it's mostly handled with a great deal of wit and intelligence that elevates even the section involving the world's most pornographic sex education class to a high level. Perhaps in retrospect this film's flaws are more obvious than those "Life of Brian" suffers from, but both are ultimately on the same level.

9/10


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