Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)



The third feature film from the Monty Python boys should barely be allowed to call itself one. While their previous efforts (Holy Grail, Life of Brian) managed to have some kind of plot, The Meaning of Life completely disregards the need for a story and is a series of skits you’d probably see on Saturday Night Live. That is not to say the film isn’t funny– it is hilarious– I just wanted to point out that there is no story here.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life strings together several short scenes, each focusing on a separate stage of life. We being at birth and continue through to mid-life and finally death and the afterlife. The Python crew (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam) are still very funny, although you get the idea that this was their one last hurrah as a group. John Cleese left the group around the time this film was released, citing boredom and difficulty working with Graham Chapman (who at that stage was struggling with alcoholism). The members were brought back together on and off before Graham Chapman’s death in 1989, but this was the last time that all 6 members appeared on screen together.

As I’ve said earlier, this doesn’t feel like a movie, it feels like a really special episode of SNL. It is still very funny though. Some great moments coming from the Python team, including the death scene and a hilarious sequence involving an obese man eating so much he explodes. One of the good things about this movie is that the Python team weren’t handcuffed by a story. This feels like they were given free reign for the first time in one of their theatrical releases. There are some really random things going on here, such as the opening of the film which takes place in a board room and has nothing to do with the film or the meaning of life, and the strange ‘middle of the film’ sequence. The Meaning of Life, I think, best represents the group’s random silliness better than the Holy Grail or Life of Brian. There are plenty of laugh out loud moments, although the film never does hit the highs of their previous films. You do get the idea the group were becoming a bit bored of each other, which explains why they split up soon after.

The Meaning of Life is a very funny ‘movie’, even though it has no story or protagonist. It is your last chance to enjoy the funniest group of men ever assembled. I know that’s a big call, but I can’t think of anyone else who were as consistently hilarious as this group of guys.

Rating: B+

First things first, did you know that a computer game based on this movie existed? The only real question is, why? But then, I suppose one could ask, why not? No matter how you dice it, I need to get my hands on this game and a Windows 95 rigged computer.

Moving right along… Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life barely qualifies as a movie. This is really just a feature length collection of skits that sometimes have to do with the meaning of life, but are more often excuses to display the absurd humor that the Python’s do best. That’s not to say that it’s not funny, I was just expecting a little more.

My main issue with this movie is that there is little structure to it. The Holy Grail and Life of Brian both have moments that feel more like a sketch show than a film, but there is a loose story holding everything together in both. The Meaning of Life doesn’t have this. There is no overarching story, just the vague idea that the Pythons are commenting on the human existence, from birth until death. The result is a mishmash of sketches, some successful and some not. I’ll go ahead and say it now, this is my least favorite Monty Python film.

While a lot of the skits presented are merely OK, there are a few standouts that warm me to this movie. As always, I love the songs. Meaning of Life features the hilarious “Every Sperm is Sacred,” which I’ve recently learned has been sung outside abortion clinics by pro-choice activists to ridicule their anti-choice opponents. This makes me so happy. While this song gets a lot of attention, the movie also includes the underrated “Galaxy Song.”  I love this song. It uses astronomical figures to illustrate just how insignificant human beings are compared to the vastness of the universe, set to a catchy tune. So nerdy; so great.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life is fun, but not on the same level as their previous two movies. While it’s always great to see the entire troupe doing their thing (this was the last big screen hurrah before Graham Chapman’s death), it’s not some of their best work. There are moments of true comic genius, but it’s not on par with The Holy Grail or Life of Brian.

Rating: B

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