Sunday, December 23, 2012

#860. The Meaning of Life (1983)

Directed By: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam

Starring: John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle

Tagline: It took God six days to create the earth, and Monty Python just 90 minutes to screw it up"

Trivia: Michael Palin's line, "Hey, but I didn't eat the mousse," is a rare Python ad-lib and was not in the script

Having already taken on the legend of King Arthur (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and religion (Life of Brian), Monty Python clearly felt they were ready to tackle something a bit larger in scope, and for my money, you can’t get much bigger than trying to define The Meaning of Life!

Returning once again to the sketch formula made popular in their Flying Circus television show, the Pythons (or Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Eric idle and Terry Gilliam) present the story of life in skit format, from birth and early education up to, and including, death. They do make a few detours along the way, delving into such topics as sex, Christianity and war, and even have time for a musical number or two, yet ultimately, The Meaning of Life is about just that: explaining why mankind is here on earth, and what the purpose of life is.

On second thought… no, it isn’t about that at all!

The Meaning of Life is yet another triumph for the Pythons. Among the highlights are a classroom sequence, set at an all-boys prep school, where the Headmaster (John Cleese) is instructing his pupils on the finer points of sex by way of a live demonstration, and a late scene in which a dinner party is interrupted when Death (Cleese again) comes knocking at the door. Of course, the group does occasionally cross the line into hilarious bad taste, including the “organ donor” skit and, even worse, a sequence set in a classy restaurant, where the incredibly wealthy Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones), who also happens to be the world’s most obese man, wreaks havoc with his rather nasty habit of vomiting all over the place. The movie also boasts a handful of memorable musical numbers, like the not-so-subtle jab at Catholicism, “Every Sperm is Sacred”, and the Busby Berkeley-inspired “Christmas in Heaven” grand finale. The Meaning of Life has all this, and some fish too!

For those of you wondering if, during all the chaos above, the Pythons ever do get around to enlightening us on the meaning of life, I can assure you they do. But if it’s a life-altering revelation you’re looking for, well… you may be disappointed!

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