The Meaning of Life (1983) Poster

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Looking For Answers? No Better Place To Look Than Here...
hokeybutt23 August 2004

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!
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Monty Python's final film adventure
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.
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Bloody good "Python"!
lauraeileen89421 January 2007
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?".
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More hilarity on film from the Monty Python team; this time, in sketch-comedy form
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews21 May 2005
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
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A great comedy which may be crass and rude, but is not lacking in typical Python wit
ametaphysicalshark11 January 2008
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.

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The answer you've all been looking for
BroadswordCallinDannyBoy2 February 2006
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 ass off.

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
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Not the Best but, it's still Python
mjw230524 January 2005
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.
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Disgusting, Obscene, Disgraceful; and downright hilarious!
NoIdeasLtd20 March 2008
I was introduced to Monty Python a few weeks ago by a friend who let me borrow their movie collection on DVD. I have still got it with me, and have watched all the films at least twice. I have to admit, the humour and format is a bit out of date, but when you consider it's all over 20 years old and all still funny, you realise how ingenious it actually is. Anyhow, despite what other fans have said, this is almost certainly Monty Python's best film. Sure, it doesn't quite have the satirical cleverness of Life of Brian, sure it isn't as creative as Holy Grail, and despite the fact a lot of fans like this because it's quite similar to the flying circus show, it doesn't get as close to that as 'Now for something completely different' did (probably because that contained sketches directly from the show), and sure, John Cleese denied rewriting the script, which would of made the film even better, but it does have one thing that the show; or any of the other movies for that matter; doesn't have... Conplete and utter frequent obscenity. Seriously, from the beginning to the end it's got sexual, near blasphemous, and death based humour, but because I was watching it with my brother and not mother or any older generation, I hardly noticed. That was, until the live organ transplant scene. Seriously, that was the funniest, most shocking scene I have ever seen in Monty Python, or possibley ever. You have to watch it to get it, but damn. It's also got everything Monty Python's stuff other stuff has got, including an incredibly surreal 'middle of the film' Your'll love this film if you like Monty Pythons unique brand of humour, or if you enjoy fatalist, dark, sexual, toilet, violent, offencive or any other kind of shock value humour. Oh yeah, It's also got Boobies. I think it also contains the f-word a few times, but I don't think it was used more than in Life of Brian so from that side it was less obscene, but on the whole, this is the live-action, plot less, philosophical South Park movie.
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life really should be more like this
Lee Eisenberg14 June 2005
Leave it to Monty Python's Flying Circus to create something like this. "The Meaning of Life" opens with a sketch about a bunch of overworked accountants taking revenge on the yuppie bankers, Errol Flynn-style. Then, the movie shows the various stages of life. Among these displays are an explanation of why "every sperm is sacred", John Cleese's demonstration of having sex, Terry Jones as a man who has quite literally had too much to eat (and continues having too much), and finally, death - prior to which you are chased by half-dressed women.

Anyway, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones do their usual stuff. A laugh riot from beginning to end.
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Michael Palin sums it up best.
bat-513 July 1999
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.
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least in the Python 'trilogy', but parts are wildly successful and memorable
MisterWhiplash15 August 2005
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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The Meaning Of Monty Python
Chrysanthepop7 November 2008
'The Meaning of Life' may not appeal to everyone. Even I find some of the sketches too vulgar and a few to be repulsive but that's Monty Pythn for you: sometimes stupid, sometimes outrageous and sometimes funny. The sketch that I enjoyed most was the one with the old office workers fighting with the corperates of modern day. I was also morbidly fascinated by the organ donor sketch. The team: Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and others do a good job of acting, writing and directing. Yes, it might not be everyone's cup of tea but those familiar with the Monty Python series know what kind of humour to expect. I enjoyed lots of it but the one with the fat guy at the restaurant was disgusting to watch. On a final note, the special features on the DVD are worth viewing.
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Where would you like to start?
Robert J. Maxwell23 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This one and "The Life of Brian" top their list, in my humble opinion. Each time this rolls around on cable TV I expect finally to find it boring but rarely do. If I can make it to the second sketch, the aquarium with the fish, I'm hooked. Now, I can't spell out too many of the situations without ruining the surprises, but I can't resist those fish.

We see an underwater scene with a fake fish swimming slowly back and forth. Another fish enters and they exchange gruff, "Good mornings." One by one other fish swim into the scene and each time, there is the same "good morning" exchange, very ritualized and formal. There is a brief conversation between the fishes. (All of them have hideous humanoid face.) "Anything new?" "Wot?" "I say, anything new?" "No, nothing much new." One of the fishes faces the camera and exclaims, "Look! Howard's being EATEN." And the camera shows us that the fish are in a restaurant aquarium, the kind from which ultra-fresh live fish are hand picked to serve as an entrée.

We see the fussily dressed waiter bending down to show the customer his nicely prepared decapitate piscine preparation.

"Hmmm," one of the fish wonders aloud. "Makes you THINK, doesn't it?" Then the opening credits roll -- "Monty Python's Meaning of Life." Granted this description loses something in being transposed from one medium to another, but if you don't find this amusing you may not appreciate the rest of the film.

There are some dozen or so sketches, none of which fall entirely flat, but some of which are stronger than others. The most offensive by far is the fat man, M. Creosote, who waddles into a fancy French restaurant in the fattest FAT SUIT known to man or beast. He literally drags his belly along the floor. The staff rush to seat him and cater to him. (Throughout the film, much of the humor derives from the unflappability of the cast, no matter how dire the circumstances -- selling one's children for use is scientific experiments, losing a leg ("Woke up and -- one sock too many") or death. The waiters provide the rebarbative M. Creosote with a bucket to puke into and M. Creosote uses it -- not delicately but voluminously, all over the floor and the other diners. When he's eaten and drunk what appears to be the entire stock of the restaurant, no more than a tiny head on a balloon of a body, dribbling vomit, the waiter entices him into trying just one more dessert, wafer thin. The waiter gingerly feeds it to him, then dives behind a wall as M. Creosote explodes like a bomb, drenching the entire interior of the establishment and causing all the other customers to become ill.

I see I've already ruined two gags. Okay. I'll try reining myself in. But I'm compelled to mention some dialog in the scene in which death visits a quartet of diners at home because of some tainted salmon mousse. An American man in a loud jacket and tie removes his pipe and begins to argue with the Grim Reaper. "Shuddup!" orders the Reaper. "All you Americans talk too much. You talk and talk. You say things like, 'I wanna tell you something,' and 'Just lemme say this!'" I'm laughing too hard to go on and it's just as well that I quit now. But maybe I should add that the last sketch, following Death, shows us a heaven staged like a Las Vegas show, and it's ridiculed. Maybe Monty Python, in deliberately throwing away any attempt to define the meaning of life, has bootlegged a philosophy into the story after all. Marcus Aurelius recommended "waiting for death with a cheerful mind" and observed that "death looks at all of us and the best we can do is smile back." Like other Stoics, he assumed that people should not fear that which is natural. "Why should a man have any apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elements? For it is according to nature, and nothing is evil which is according to nature" Albert Einstein described his own attitude towards death in similar terms. "It is a natural event." If you're uncertain about this being your cup of tea, my advice would be to watch it for ten or fifteen minutes. If you aren't grabbed by then, watch something else.
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A nutty mixture of surreal and satiric bits abut the essential issues of life
ma-cortes22 September 2014
Delightful as well as hilarious film but plenty with profanities , nudism , sex , grossing humor and obscenity . This film being the last Monty Python explores the meaning and aim of life in a lot of sketches from conception , boyhood , adult world , war , to death when the group suffered from food poisoning , then Grim Reaper brings for the final stage of human life and beyond .

Irreverent and often sidesplitting satire of religion , Catholicism , Protestantism , traditional family , God and many other things . Monty Phyton performs a series of sketches about the life cycle from birth , existence to death in this often uproariously funny , sometimes tedious , movie . According to Michael Palin , the picture ranges from philosophy to history to medicine to halibut . Here the comedy team takes a look at life in all its stages in their own uniquely silly way , as they satirize and humorize almost everyone . ¨The meaning of life¨ , originally called "Monty Python's Fish Film" will probably offend some catholics , including many political and social comments . As it has a mercilessly critique to Roman Catholic in a sketch when a couple has quite a lot of children because 'every sperm is sacred' (the kids who sang the song later said they had no idea what they were singing about) ; being unknown to the rest of the team until later, director Terry Jones spent most of the budget for the film on the dancing and singing sequences . The bizarre "Find The Fish" sketch was filmed in the main control hall of Battersea Power Station, London . It was supposed to represent the weird dreams that we all experience from time to time , Terry Gilliam later expressed his regret that this aspect wasn't given a little more explanation . The best part of the film results to be the beginning with a stand-alone 17-minute supporting feature entitled The Crimson Permanent Assurance stunningly directed by Terry Gilliam ; it was filmed as if it were a completely separate project , Gilliam got his own sound-stage, crew and cast . This segment continued to expand because, according to Gilliam, nobody told him to stop . Furthermore , special mention to the death sketch, where Arthur Jarrett , Graham Chapman , has chosen to die while pursued by naked girls . Six cast members played a lot of characters such as Graham Chapman , John Cleese , Terry Gilliam , Eric Idle , Terry Jones and Michael Palin . The talented cast also conceived and wrote all of the material . The characters they are seen playing last are as following: Graham Chapman as Tony Bennett, John Cleese as Death, Terry Gilliam as Howard Katzenberg, Eric Idle as Angela, Terry Jones as Mrs. Brown and Michael Palin as the Lady presenter . The last shot featuring all the Pythons together is when Death shows the six dead people 'Paradise' . You don't have to be British to enjoy the various political asides and lampoons .

Lively Original Music by John Du Prez , including jolly final song sung by Eric Idle . Colorful as well as evocative Cinematography by Peter Hannan and Roger Pratt in segment "The Crimson Permanent Assurance". The motion picture was well directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam in animation and special sequence ; it won the Special Jury Grand prize at the Cannes film festival . While writing this film, the Python troupe decided to take a break and put on some shows at the famous Hollywood Bowl, which were filmed and released as Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl (1982) . In 1965, filmmaker Terry Jones with his friend Michael Palin, made The Late Show (1966) for television, which was his first success and he wrote for many other TV shows . But Jones' greatest success was the zany Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74) (with Palin, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle) and other hits such as Jabberwocky , The meaning of life , Monty Python and the Holy Grail and ¨Life of Brian¨ , this is the tale of of a man whose life parallels Jesus ; it results to be the most sustained and funniest film from Britain's bad boys that may prove offensive to some and a sheer delight to others .
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And Now For Something Completely Wasted
Bill Slocum29 April 2008
The cancer that robbed us of Graham Chapman in 1989 not only snuffed out the life of one of Britain's great eccentrics, it also left this sad, shaky undigested lump of a film as the last will and testament of that great comedy troupe he so stolidly centered, Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Like the first Python film more than a decade before, "And Now For Something Completely Different", this was a collection of sketches. But rather than refining material first performed on the BBC, the six Pythons created a wholly new piece more or less about the purpose of human existence. The patchwork nature of this project is hard to ignore and even commented upon within the film, but the real problem with "Meaning Of Life" is how sourly unfunny it manages to be.

Have you ever wondered about how so many philosophers have the letter "S" in their names? Neither have I, but the Pythons manage to beat this frail idea into the ground, in the form of Michael Palin and Eric Idle as a pair of middle-aged Americans stuck for dinner conversation. How about organ donation? It turns out a cruel, bloody trick played on Terry Gilliam as a Jewish Rastafarian for some bizarre reason. War is cruel, especially when you are a World War I officer enacted by Terry Jones whose troops decide to throw him a surprise birthday party in the midst of battle.

John Cleese manages to come off best by appearing in the one good sketch here, a pedantic schoolmaster so mindnumbingly boring he can't keep his class interested even while showing them how he has sex with his wife. "As you can see, I have now entered...oh, do try paying attention!" Cleese avoids most of the rest of the movie, another plus for him. Those Callard & Bowser commercials probably seemed a better idea at the time, and they were.

On a commentary track for the DVD, principal director Jones and Gilliam, who directed a meandering opening sequence about pirate accountants and some smaller bits, talk very contentedly about the film, Gilliam enthusing about how smooth and professional the troupe performed at this time. They are smooth, but rarely funny.

The one sketch the two directors criticize in the whole film is a bit where two men dressed as a tiger apparently make off with someone's leg. It strikes them as very early Python, and indeed it is, from a time when their inspired, mind-warping silliness made them comedic successors to the Beatles, as George Harrison often maintained.

The sketch is dodgy, but it's about the only glimmer of that old light to be found. Otherwise, the Pythons seem more interested in outraging viewers than entertaining them, with healthy doses of blood, vomit, and religion-bashing. There's a saying the worst thing you can give creative people is anything they want. That the Pythons enjoyed no censorship and a big budget puts them too often at their self-indulgent, lazy worst.

Maybe the problem was that Cleese, Palin, Gilliam, and Idle had already struck out successfully as individuals by this point, and saw the whole Python deal as just a few extra bob rather than anything important. Maybe the long layoff since their last big project, "Life Of Brian", made them shyer about speaking their minds regarding weaknesses in each other's material. Maybe they needed to give Chapman more to do. He was the star in "Brian" and "Monty Python And The Holy Grail", a cheerfully daft center for the others to bounce off of. Here he stands out mostly for a scene where he is chased by a group of bare-breasted maidens.

The breasts are nice, anyway; almost making up for the fact their placement has no point. Nothing has a point in "Meaning Of Life", and after more than 90 pointless minutes of it, you will never be so happy to see Death arrive to crash the party.
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If You Understand The Humour of the Story You Will Enjoy It Immensely
eric26200325 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
The determination as to whether you liked "The Meaning of Life" depends if you found any of the humour in it funny. The reason so is because the film itself is just a variety of sketches made into the film rather than a concrete story arc with a standard plot along with well-developed characters as you follow along with on their journeys. Some people wouldn't mind the sketch-driven movie and others might find the whole idea very annoying. Whether concrete or not, the factor whether you enjoyed it or not depends on if you laughed at the scenes featured here. To me I really had a good time watching "The Meaning of Life" and the sketches were funnier than the stuff "Saturday Night Live" has been putting on in recent years. Still others may not have enjoyed it much and it's partially due to the certain type of humour that may have not caught on by many audience members. And if you can't decipher that kind of humour, you won't find "The Meaning of Life" funny at all.

The bizarre humour here is naturally over-the-top and focuses its attention on the easy targets to its capacity. The comedy is formatted of characters being oblivious to the peculiar settings they are faced with or what's surrounding them or what they're getting themselves into. They don't think what they're doing is funny and succeed in keeping their manners sharp and straight and to me I find that both funny and effective at the same time. Also, you must keep in mind of some of the subliminal sight gags hidden behind the sketch, therefore, it also pays to keep your ears and your eyes open at all times. Just as well, this adds more credibility into making all the more hilarious.

The individual segments are more superior to the other sketches and they they're not as effective in its comedy factor. Such funny scenes that provided a lot of laughs were when John Cleese was teaching his pupils the finer points of sex. Another memorable sketch was the Grim Reaper sketch, but the one that will make even the hardened stoic person chuckle is the slow-motion boobs. The midway sketches provided nothing but dead weight and were not too hilarious at all. This is followed by a segment featuring the world's fattest man, while it is still very funny, I thing they overdid with the gross out humour for too long that it wears out its welcome in rather short period of time. I really wince in pain by the sight of barf, therefore that sketch was hard to digest (no pun intended).

Like I said earlier different people have contrary tastes in what kind of humour they like. "The Meaning of Life" is movie is no exception to the rule. Either you like the humour or you despise the humour. There are no moral lessons in the script any kind of important messages to follow. In fact all the serious issues implemented in the movie are being deliberately lampooned. Some of the sketches will make you cry in laughter and others will keep you waiting for the next scene to come. But I laughed quite frequently here and that's what really counts. I mean who couldn't laugh at such memorable quotations like, "stampede towards the clitoris!"
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As good or bad as you agree or disagree with it.
Aphostile5 October 2003
I absolutely loved this movie. Admittedly, it's filled with very dark, biting humor with undertones of social criticism. It's very different from anything else Monty Python attempted but it retains the marvelously silly quality of the other works.

I think just how much someone appreciates this movie depends on how tolerant they are of the themes and ideas being presented. A deeply religious person would be more offended than usual. Anyone offended by the viewpoint that life is ultimately meaningless will also not appreciate it.

I remember some critics were bashing it here when it came out by pointing out the Grim Reaper character's negative comments regarding Americans. I always found this profoundly ridiculous since on the balance, they bashed themselves, the English too, in the same sketch.
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Timothy Leary's favorite movie
TobyDammit31 July 2003
This is more like the Flying Circus show than the other two movies. It is also full of songs. Luckily, the songs are hilarious. Like, "Every Sperm is Sacred" and "Isn't fun to have a Penis." Fun for the whole family. Like in the other two films by Python they go for the throat. Nothing is sacred. (except possibly sperm) From birth to death they spoof everything we dumb humans have gone through and man is it ugly. Thank Jehovah for humor!!! (I know, I'm only making it worse for myself.) Besides, give it a look for old Tim's sake.
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Weak Python
shh-315 January 2001
Monty Python's weakest effort. Some skits are quite funny, many simply crude and pointless. It's as if Monty Python was trying too hard, giving the impression of a bad imitation, sort of like those annoying kids in high school you knew who spent hours repeating Python skits.

For good Python, go watch Holy Grail or Life of Brian.
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Judson-218 May 1999
This is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. The skits are so hilarious, and John Cleese is brilliant. This is just as good or better than the classic Holy Grail.
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ericjg62323 December 2001
Another reviewer nailed it - by the time this film came out, the Monty Python style of humor was already becoming a bit, well, dated. It'd lost the freshness which made the original TV show and their earlier films such classics. In short, the lads were trying TOO hard to be funny, and it shows. Not that's it's a bad movie, there's enough funny stuff to give nearly every viewer a good laugh at some point or another, but it's just not consistently funny, which is the mark of any great comedy. My favorite was probably the bit about the English Army officers fighting in Africa in the 1870's, when one of them wakes up to find his leg missing.

The doctor says "Must have been bit off by a tiger".

"A tiger, here in Africa?"

"Well, maybe it escaped from a zoo".

This was the sort of lunatic dialogue which made their earlier work great. But too much of it is just gross out humor. The fat guy was pretty funny, but the liver sketch was just disgusting. And Cleese doing live "sex-ed" in front of a bunch of bored schoolboys just made me want to cringe. Like I said, it seemed to me the guys knew they were past their prime, and instead of just letting the humor flow naturally, they tried too often to force it out. With decidedly mixed results.

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