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Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

January 22nd, 2006 · No Comments

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Follow-up to Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a clearly better produced work, even a “real” movie from start to finish, but lacks the on-the-fly charm of the lads’ previous effort in a send-up of Biblical times.

Directed by Terry Jones and written and performed by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Jones, Eric Idle and Michael Palin, with Terry Gilliam credited for some of the animated bits (presumably moving on as a filmmaker with Time Bandits) the ability of executive producer George Harrison and his Handmade Films to make a polished movie is never in question.

The opening credits sequence, with Python-esque animation and a hilarious James Bond sounding theme song, gets things rolling. Laugh out loud, piss your pants bits in the 94 minute film also include Cleese presiding over a stoning (but getting “stoned” himself for accidentally uttering the blasphemy “Jehovah”) and Palin as a Pontius Pilate whose legionaries have to keep from busting up in laughter when he lisps.

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Life of Brian is probably best remembered for the bit where Brian (Chapman) falls into an alien spaceship and takes a brief flight into outer space. The sequence comes out of nowhere and gets us away from the tiresome Roman material that saddles the movie, if only for a moment.

Droll wit and Python’s style is on display here, more than any type of story or character development. This was okay for Holy Grail, which had a “Let’s put on a show!” backyard feel to it. A budget, credible direction and camerawork and a larger cast actually give us less to laugh at here, but the movie does end memorably with Idle’s classic ditty “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as prisoners hum along while dangling from crucifixes.

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