A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 301 – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life – December 26th, 2010

I am experiencing some pretty severe holiday let-down today. It’s likely a combination of the snowpocalypse happening outside right now and a month’s worth of shopping and cooking and planning and whatnot all culminating in yesterday’s two separate Christmas get-togethers. And now it’s over. As is our Christmas movie fest. Except not quite, because this evening we discovered one more Christmas movie that had escaped our notice, sitting in a stack in the bedroom. Bizarre. We’ll watch it tomorrow since it’s on the long side. Since I’m a little out of it and cranky from post-holiday blah, we decided to go with something easy tonight. And hey, this one ends with a song about Christmas in Heaven (which really should be played back to back with Spinal Tap’s Christmas with the Devil). Hey, we don’t have any Boxing Day movies, okay?

This is a bizarre collage of a movie, starting with a short film about the elderly employees at the Crimson Permanent Assurance mutinying against their yuppie bosses and sailing their building off into the high seas of international finance as pirates. It has nothing to do with the rest of the movie really. There’s a callback to it later, when we revisit a location and the movie sort of laps itself, but really it’s just a passing reference to tie things in. It’s not part of the overall plot. And why is this? Because the movie doesn’t have much in the way of a linear plot. The rough idea is that the movie covers various stages of life, showing comedic takes on various situations and trying to point out the absurdity of finding meaning in it all. But by their own admission, Monty Python really just figured that was the only way to wrap everything they’d envisioned into a cohesive package.

I believe this movie was specially tailored for maximum embarrassment factor if viewed with one’s parents. I wasn’t allowed to see it for years and when I finally was I remember immediately understanding why. There were bits I loved, and bits I would fast forward through. Not because I disliked them, but because they were things intended to be embarrassing and they did precisely what they meant to do. There’s the thoroughly cringe-inducing scene with John Cleese and Patricia Quinn demonstrating sex for academic purposes. There’s the topless women chasing Graham Chapman through the streets to his character’s death. There’s “Every Sperm is Sacred” and the animated naked women who show up in a couple of places. It is full of bits and pieces intended to prod at you and go “So, who’d you take to see this? Your mum?”

So, after the Crimson Permanent Assurance short the movie begins in earnest. We get several stages of life, with a few sketches and bits in each. Birth features a hospital birth that gave us the fantastic reference to “the machine that goes PING” and the sperm song. Growth and Learning, focusing largely on a boys’ school, has the least sexy consensual sex scene ever. Fighting Each Other has some great commentary on war, the British army, and one of my favorite classic Monty Python bits: Waking up and down the square. Then we get the Middle of the Film, which has an utterly nonsensical bit with Michael Palin in drag and an invitation to “find the fish” in something I can only assume came out of Terry Gilliam’s dreams. Middle Age follows and features a medieval dungeon (haha, Middle Age, get it?) and a not so good conversation on philosophy from Eric Idle and Michael Palin with not so good American accents. Live Organ Transplants is probably my favorite part of the movie, since it features the Galaxy Song, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Live Organ Transplants is followed by The Autumn Years, which is where the infamous Mr. Creosote scene is. It’s classic Python, with the true humor coming from the waiter’s unflappable service to a pain in the ass customer. Death comes after that, ending the movie with an elaborate Vegas-style show full of showgirls in Santa/Angel costumes with fake bare breasts, singing about how it’s Christmas in Heaven every single day. The movie closes with Michael Palin in drag again, ranting about the state of films and offhandedly telling us the meaning of life.

Now, you can see it’s utterly ridiculous. It’s Monty Python, so that’s to be expected, but it’s a sort of bizarre cross between their movies and their shows. It’s not really a coherent movie with a plot and a cast of characters we follow the whole way, but it’s far more cohesive than any of the shows, with things roughly following a timeline. It’s just on a grander scale, with a bigger scope. What helps here is that at the end? In Heaven, before the big number starts, we’re shown the people in Heaven, seated at their tables. We see the children from the sperm song. We see the boys from the school. The soldiers from the war (from both sides). The couple who gave their organs. Everyone’s there, in this celestial dinner theater, enjoying a nice meal and a spectacle of a show. A cute bit of commentary there, if you squint.

As I mentioned, my very favorite bit in this movie is the Galaxy Song. I love a lot of the songs and sketches and gags in this movie and I have to say I always have. But I heard the Galaxy Song long before I’d seen the movie and I loved it instantly. I can sing it from heart. Eric Idle’s performance of it is absolutely perfect and it’s the sort of thing that sticks in your head. And even though it’s basically a recitation of some facts and figures, it does have a point. A snarky sarcastic point, but a point nonetheless. Which makes it all the better. Because in a movie like this, that’s all you can really ask for. Good humor and maybe a bit of a point under it all, but not anything deep enough to make you stop laughing.

December 26, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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