Michael Palin, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
The British comedy group known as Monty Python worked together for fourteen years. During that time, they made a TV series, toured a stage show, recorded many albums, wrote half a dozen books, and filmed four movies. Life of Brian is their third and best movie. It combines their trademark humor with, for the first time, a complete storyline, including a beginning, middle, and end. Until this film, their previous work was comprised of hilarious, stream of consciousness humor, which sacrificed plot for the sake of jokes. Life of Brian is their most mature film.
Monty Python's Life of Brian is a comedy set in Judea, 33 AD. It tells the story of Brian Cohen, a man born on the same night as Jesus, in the stable down the street. He becomes a member of the People's Front of Judea, a resistance group struggling to free Galilee from the Romans. Along the way, he falls in love with Judith, another member of the PFJ, and eventually makes the ultimate sacrifice for the cause.
This movie contains some of the funniest scenes in any Python film. My personal favorite is the scene in Pilate's audience chamber, where Pilate, played hilariously by Michael Palin, tries to sentence Brian to crucifixion. Unfortunately, since Pilate has such a bad lisp, the guards can not keep them selves from laughing, especially when Pilate invokes the name of his good friend, Biggus Dickus.
Many religious groups protested the movie upon its release because of what they deemed its blasphemous content. They tried to convince everyone who would listen, to boycott and avoid this movie. The irony being, that the theme of this movie isn't blasphemous at all. Its theme is that everyone should think for themselves.
One other notable aspect worth mentioning is the song 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' which is sung at the end of the movie. This song almost out did the movie. Not only did it go to number three on the British Pop Charts, and not only is it now an English football game tradition, but it was also sung by British sailors during the Falkland Islands war. And even more notably in America, a portion of it was sung by Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets.
Although some consider Monty Python an acquired taste, anyone with a sense of humor and an open mind should find something in this movie to enjoy.
Eric Idle and Graham Chapman in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
Scott is wrong on only one point. To a religious person I believe this movie is quite blasphemous. It takes great joy, after all, in poking fun at the hypocrisy of Christianity. For example, a scene early on shows Jesus giving a sermon. The camera pulls back to a small group of people standing at the edge of the crowd. When they are unable to hear the sermon clearly, the following exchange takes place. "I think it was blessed are the cheese makers." "What's so great about the cheese makers?" "Well it's not meant to be taken literally, it refers to any manufacturer of dairy products."
Other hilarious moments include the Peoples Front of Judea (not to be confused with the Judean Peoples Front) debating what the Romans have done for them and a scene where a Roman soldier catches Brian writing graffiti on a wall. Then proceeds to correct the grammar of his Latin.
The formula is this. Take the intellectual witticism of Woody Allen, the absurdist, wink at the camera, humor of Mel Brooks and the frenetic pace and split second timing of the Marx Brothers. Throw in a British accent and Python's unique, crackpot philosophy and the result is this completely silly laugh fest.
Unfortunately, as with all nonsensical comedies, this movie does not bear repeat viewing. For that, real characters (as opposed to caricatures) and character development are essential.
Finally, as Scott mentioned, Life of Brian ends with one of the most creative and whimsical musical numbers ever put on film.
John Cleese, Michael Palin and Graham Chapman in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
This movie has some laugh out loud scenes. The opening one where Brian is mistaken for the baby Jesus is one of my favorite. Some jokes, however, are dragged to death. When Brian's mother tells the crowd outside his bedroom to stop following him, it drags on pointlessly, as does the scene with the lisping Roman leader addressing the people of Jerusalem.
Each Monty Python member plays several characters. My favorite ones were Brian's hideous mother (Terry Jones) and the sympathetic crucifixion guard (Michael Palin). This movie is not blasphemous in the fact that Jesus is a peripheral character that is only briefly seen quoting the bible. When he is referred to, it is again within the contents of the Bible. Such as the begging, ex-leper complaining that Jesus cured him. Jesus did in fact do that. The joke is about the beggar, not Jesus.
Photos © Copyright Python (Monty) Pictures Limited (1979)