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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Written by Terry Jones, the "Mr. Creosote" scene was roundly rejected by the group on its initial read-through. It was saved from oblivion several weeks later by John Cleese, who, Jones said, "had realized the waiter was the funniest part." See more »
In the death sequence, the name at the top of the mausoleum is "nitruc" instead of "curtin", so the segment is reversed/flipped. See more »
In the opening credits, the title is initially written as "MEANING OF LIFF", then a lightning strike corrects that to "LIFE". A book, "The Meaning of Liff", written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd was published in 1983. See more »
"The Meaning of Life" as a whole is clearly not Monty Python's best work, yet some of the individual sketches - the film is really just a big-budget sketch show - provide some of their most inspired moments. But overall, this is not the sort of swansong that befits the Monty Python legend.
Part of the problem is that, when the film was made (1983), British comedy was in the grip of the "alternative" revolution, as a new generation of comic writer/performers (Ben Elton, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, etc) were beginning their rise to stardom and making the Python brand of humour look hopelessly out-of-date - alternative comedy was essentially comedy's "punk" to the "prog-rock" of Python.
The film opens with a beautifully-shot, but utterly pointless Terry Gilliam creation, "The Crimson Permanent Assurance", which serves little purpose other than to provide a set-up for a gag later in the film. When the film proper begins, though, the familiar Pythonesque humour kicks in, and normal business is resumed, albeit patchily.
The highlights for me are the "Live Organ Transplants" sketch, in which a man has his liver forcibly removed on his own kitchen table, and "Mr Creosote", the grossly fat diner who gorges and vomits his way to an explosive demise, both of which are the type of gross-out gags which have always found a place in British humour - even today, the "League of Gentlemen" team are proudly carrying on this tradition.
Also, some of the songs in the film are among Python's best, particularly "Every Sperm Is Sacred", a wonderfully over-the-top song-and-dance number, and the cheesey "Christmas In Heaven", in which Graham Chapman gives the greatest Tony Bennett impersonation ever committed to celluloid. Unfortunately, much of the remaining material is meandering and tedious, and just serves to pad the thing out to its already over-long 107 minutes.
Python fans will find a lot to amuse them in "The Meaning of Life", but don't expect it to be another "Holy Grail" or "Life of Brian" - it isn't.
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