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MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (4 outta 5 stars)
I never really thought this was anywhere near the best work of the Pythons... but, the more I see this movie, the more I like it. People not in tune with the Python sense of humour will find this film unbearable I'm sure. (When I saw it in the theatre when it first came out there were an incredible numbers of walkouts... even *before* the infamous "Mr. Creosote" scene.) Not an actual movie so much as an extended (and expensively-produced) episode of the classic BBC TV series "Monty Python's Flying Circus"... depicting several stages in the lives of human beings, from birth to death. There are some hilarious bits (the sex education class, Death crashing a dinner party), some clever bits (the opening fish skit, the show-stopping dance number "Every Sperm is Sacred") and some just plain gross, disgusting bits (Mr. Creosote, organ donations). Plus, the movie has its own special short subject "The Crimson Permanent Assurance"... where an accounting office staffed by aging workerbees suddenly metamorphosizes into a pirate ship! Most people find this bit incredibly boring and pointless... but, dang, its cleverly done!
The famous British comedy troupe, Monthy Python, crafted this bizarre
collections of their special brand of humor as their last film
together; loosely tied by the common theme of the everlasting search
for the Meaning of Life, this series of sketches make a very good
closure for their film adventures, as it seems as a return to their
roots in the TV show "Flying Circus" and dedicated to long time fans.
Nevertheless, this may also be a turn off for fans expecting something
akin to "Holy Grial" or "Life of Brian".
Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones direct the segments that form "The Meaning of Life", divided in the diverse stages of human development (from birth to death), the action flows with ease; although due to the nature of the film, some sketches are definitely better than other. It's safe to say that this movie contains some of the best and the worst the troupe has done; however, their most mediocre work is still better than most modern comedy out there.
The movie also foresees the future careers of both Gilliam and Jones as directors; their film style (particularly Gilliam's) is now mature and almost fully developed. Gilliam's short "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" is an outstanding segment that could even stand alone on its own, and that presents Gilliam fully in form as a wild fantasy director.
While this was their last film, the group seems to be at its peak when talking about acting; from John Cleese's Dr. Spenser to Graham Chapman's near perfect impersonation of Tony Bennet, the acting never lets down, and even when some scripts are dull even for their time, the Pythons as actors never disappoint.
Something worth to notice are the great quality of the songs performed in the film. they are not only written with their high quality witty humor, musically they work very well and rank among the best the group has written in their history together.
Still, the movie may be overlong and at times tedious to people not used to the team's brand of humor. Specially considering that "The Meaning of Life" has more in common with their early roots than with what made them famous. Also, probably some of the jokes are definitely outdated now; however, "The Meaning of Life" is a very good display of the gang's different sides.
While maybe not as ingenious as "Holy Grail" and definitely nowhere near the masterpiece "Life of Brian", the Pythons last movie is still a very good comedy to watch. However, this certain brand of humor may be appealing only to fans of the Python's TV work, as it has more of those early roots than of their past film adventures. 8/10. An acquired taste indeed.
The moment you start watching "Monty Python's Meaning of Life", and you see the unexpected movie within the movie "The Crimson Permanent Assurance", in which an office building turns into a pirate ship, you know you're in for one hell of a surreal ride. "Meaning of Life" is the Pythons at the zenith of their lunacy, filled with shocking moments of violence, offensive behavior, repulsive bodily functions, and all sorts of jaw-dropping bric a brac. Whether or not the movie truly intends to make us ponder the meaning of life or not is debatable, but you have a great time watching it. With an aquarium full of fish as a sort of Greek chorus, we explore the 3 stages of life: birth, growth, and death. The faint of heart better beware: "Meaning of Life" has scenes that would, even today, barely fly in the land of the Puritans. Michael Palin, as a dirt-poor father of 100 children, leads an epic musical number against birth control. Eric Idle, while singing about the vastness of the universe, witnesses a constellation take form of a naked woman giving birth. John Cleese plays a headmaster who teaches sex ed by having intercourse with his wife in front of his class (it's easily the least erotic sex scene in cinema history). And, in "Meaning of Life"'s most famous scene, the revolting, gluttonous Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones) literally eats until he explodes. The film lampoons several touchy topics: Catholic dogma, basic human stupidity and selfishness, the foolishness of war (in a brilliant parody of "Zulu", with Michael Caine in a brief cameo), and even death itself (one man is able to choose his death, in which he is chased off a cliff by a mob of topless women). Yet it's not entirely gratuitous. In fact, the Pythons make several good points: birth control shouldn't be denied to anyone, especially those too poor to have children. Gluttony is wrong, and will in time punish you itself. We only live once, so we better enjoy the ride. It's no-holds-barred madness, and it's Monty Python at their best. "Meaning of Life" doesn't have the same cult following as "Holy Grail", but it's certainly one of their best. If you can't handle gore, sex, vomiting, or lunacy, steer clear. For those willing to take the chance, check out "Monty Python's Meaning of Life" and maybe we'll figure out, as the title song says, if "mankind's evolving, or is it too late?".
The third and last real film by the Monty Python crew. First, they made fun of the medieval times and its beliefs. Then, they gave the earliest followers of Jesus a whooping'. Now, they... well, they pretty much cover every stage of life in the search for the 'meaning of life'. The film, unlike the two other ones(Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian) is basically a series of sketches(whereas the two aforementioned films had progressive plots), much like the series(Monty Python's Flying Circus). As such, it's pretty much like watching an episode of said series, if the episodes were nearly two hours long. Of course, this means that if you like the series, you'll like the film. To this date, I have yet to meet anyone who likes the group and doesn't like the series, so I guess it was a good idea. Despite the title, it has reasonably little actual philosophy and such, but I doubt any Python-fans will be completely devastated by this. As another new thing for a Python-film, it's also a musical. There have been one or two musical numbers during the previous films and the series, but nothing this major. There are about 8-9 musical scenes in the film, complete with choreographed dancing, lead singers and backup vocals. Of course, it's all done in typical Python-style, so not a single one of them is what you'd normally expect from a musical. The comedy is pretty much the same as usual from the Python troupe, with some misses, but mostly hits. Plot is pretty much nonexistent, but what there is, is good. The pacing is good, but because of the film's all-sketch content, it gets somewhat dull around the middle(as Cleese also points out in the 'making of' featured on the DVD). The acting is all pretty good. The special effects are nice. Not much else to say, since you already pretty much know the Pythons' style of humor from the series and the two earlier films. And if you don't, you should probably check out either of the films first, or, even better, one of the more sober episodes of the series. I recommend this to any fan of the Monty Python group, particularly those who prefer the Flying Circus over the two other films, since it's more sketch-comedy than the others. 8/10
After The Life of Brian and The Holy Grail, this film had a lot to do
to keep up. The python boys are going to explain to you the meaning of
life, in the only way they know how, brilliantly and stupidly.
Not entirely linear this is like lots of mini movies, depicting the the stages of life, from birth to death, with episodes such as learning and fighting each other in between.
Each short film is well made and they all lend a comic viewpoint to there particular place in life.
My favourite is probably death (the grim reaper is just so cool), or perhaps its fighting each other, or.....What the hell there all good fun.
Don't worry about the opening movie, it nothing like the rest of the film and it does grow on you.
8/10 If you don't like python stay away, if you've never seen them, then give it a try.
"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
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.
A series of skits and songs that try to answer the question that we all
want answered: what does it all mean? Addressing topics from love and
sex to war and death (and halibut) the crazy entourage known as Monty
Python will keep you informed, thinking, and of course laughing your
It is really more of a big budget production of Saturday Night Live since there is no real connecting plot throughout it all the segments, other than the issues being talked about and made fun of, but it still manages to be outrageously entertaining. 8/10
Rated R: near constant crudeness
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.
The Meaning of Life finds the Monty Python boys going back to their Flying Circus roots in a film that examines the many stages of life, and reduces them all to the absurdity that one would expect from these six loons. A very neat short film from Terry Gilliam starts off this search for the meaning of life and we go from birth, to examining the benefits of being a Prostestant. From there we are treated to war, live organ transplants, a very bizarre middle section of the film, sex education, Terry Jones puking and exploding in what has to be one of the most disgusting but extremely funny scenes ever committed to film. It all leads up to death, and I personally like Grahm Chapman's way of execution. It all winds up in Heaven, where every day is Christmas and it's all set up like a Las Vegas lounge show. At the end, Michael Palin gives us the meaning of life. I think he's right.
Taking a slight departure from the story structure of The Holy Grail
and Life of Brian, the Monty Python troupe went back to their 'Flying
Circus' TV days to cook up this philosophical, musical, ultra-violent,
sexual, total stream-of-consciousness look into what makes up our
lives, and if there is a meaning to it. It's split up into parts,
starting off with the Miracle of Birth (extending into the Miracle of
Birth in the Third Role), a part on war, a part on sex, and so forth.
This time Python goes even further with the outrageousness, the delayed
punch-lines, the wit, almost nothing is taken prisoners. They go after
religion, children, schooling, business, fat people, television, you
name it, they go for it, all in the quest for the 'meaning of life'.
I saw the film twice last year, and bits on TV, and I had pretty much the same reaction the second time as the first. Like with many of Python's sketches, the strengths usually out-weigh the weaknesses, depending on who's stronger in the bit; I loved the Miracle of Birth number with Michael Palin's "Every Sperm is Sacred" song, which spirals into one of director Terry Jones's most inspired numbers; I had big belly laughs when Gilliam, as a resident, got an impromptu kidney operation, as the bystanders barely seemed affected; the Mr. Creoste sketch was crude, but blatantly over the top; the timing in the school scenes and the battlefield scenes was very sharp. But in the end, the parts are more memorable than really on the whole, un-like with the other two films.
They set themselves up for a challenge- to make a comedy successful without the sort of core that was in Holy Grail (the search by King Arthur and other knights) and Life of Brian (a man mistaken to be the messiah). Sketches and specifics in the Python world are when they're at their best, and aspects like the animation and the overall scheme of getting the punchlines (or lack thereof) right isn't affected. What can be said is that some of the bits that don't work well as others keep one wanting to get to the next best bit- luckily, this all leads up to a manic scene of Chapman running away from dozens of naked women. It's always a spectacular romp with the Pythons, and even when they're at their worst and most vile and and strange (there is one scene I have no explanation for), its watchable. Maybe some scenes, like with other comedies from my childhood that I'm still amused by, will become funnier as time goes on, like little in-jokes.
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