- Movie Rating -

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)

| March 30, 1983

When Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life ended I just kind of sat there not sure what to think.  I wasn’t sure exactly how to pull it all together and I’m not sure that the guys could either.  It’s yet another Monty Python comedy, sure, I have seen all of their movies multiple times and sat through marathons of their TV show, but what was the point here?  It deals with various experiences of this mortal coil but it takes so many sideroads that you have to wonder if they lost focus.  Maybe that was the point, that perhaps randomness is the trajectory of the human lifespan.  I don’t know.  I’m thinking about it.  I still don’t know.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life challenges me to decide how I feel about it.  It is 90 minutes long and probably throws out about 300 jokes.  I laughed about a quarter of the time but when I wasn’t laughing, I was usually smiling.  Much of the time, particularly the last half hour, I just sat there.

The movie is rude, crude, violent, bloody and often disgusting.  It goes to great lengths to be over-the-top and to gross you out.  Often times you wonder if they haven’t gone too far and it might turn some people off.  The piece toward the end about a cartoonishly obese man (Terry Jones) eating and eating and eating while continually vomiting into a bucket is really a test of patience, not to mention your gag reflex.

The sketches here are not tightened down and often the movie wanders.  What the other Monty Python movies had that this movie lacks is a sense of purpose.  And Now for Something Completely was largely a dig at television.  Holy Grail poked holes in the myths and legends of King Arthur and the whole silly business of a monarchy.  Life of Brian went after the pomposity of blindly following someone that the huddled masses deem to be a living god.  But I am not sure what the central purpose was here.  It seems to be a series of sketches that bake in the inevitabilities of life – birth, sex, procreation and war – but often they get distracted.

What made me laugh?  Well . . .

* I loved the opening, a surreal bit in which overworked office workers are portrayed as galley slaves who revolt against upper management and, in pirate movie fashion, stage a mutiny. Their office building sets out to sea as they fire file cabinets at the competition.

* I laughed at a bit involving a man who has agreed to donate his liver and the doctors have come around to collect despite the fact that the man isn’t quite dead yet.

* I laughed at a bit about a group of boys in a boarding school whose teacher (John Cleese) gives them a lesson in sex education, complete with a full demonstration of the physical act itself played out between the teacher and his wife.

* I laughed at a song called “Every Sperm is Sacred”.  Who wouldn’t?

* I laughed at a scene in which the grim reaper arrives at a bungalow where the homeowners are having a dinner party and he becomes an welcomed guest.

Other times I just kind of sat there.  This is a scattershot movie that kind of ambles from one thing to the next and in the last half hour just seems to run out of ideas. There’s a “fish dance” sequence that I don’t understand, and the film concludes with a production number called “Christmas in Heaven”, which I think was supposed to represent the afterlife was just baffling.

Maybe I was looking at it wrong. Maybe I could just enjoy it as sketch comedy, and in that vein, I might enjoy it in the same way that I do “Flying Circus” where funny material was mixed into a sea of other stuff that made no sense.    

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy