"Life's a piece of shit, when you look at it" goes a Monty Python song. There are times when a deep philosophical look at the meaning of life can yield full support for this short lyrical verse. We've certainly had our ups and downs. There are beautiful moments in each man or woman's life that are never forgotten and always cherished. There are dark moments which we all wish we could forget. I'm fairly certain that each one of can ask the question "Why are we here and what's life all about?" in either puzzlement, frustration or a desire to laugh our asses off at the 1983 comedy film by the Monty Python gang.
"Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" is a series of comedy skits and musical numbers that strive to describe the complete cycle of life, from conception to death and every little bump in the road that lies between. Sex, birth, war, organ donorship, fine restaurants and death are principle subjects that are covered in the film's not quite seven chapters that begins with a short film depicting old codger financial clerk's setting sails on the financial high seas with their old brickwork building and bringing down the free world's glass and steel structured financial institutes. Of course, with any proper Monty Python film, there are plenty of penis jokes, gratuitous shots of female breasts and attacks on anything decent.
Part of the fun and splendor of "Monty Pyhon's The Meaning of Life" are the colorful and adult-humored songs. From the catchy "Every Sperm is Sacred" to "Isn't It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?" and finishing with the hilarious title song, "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" is easily the funniest damn musical you will ever have a chance to hear. All of the Monty Python films have had a few funny musical numbers, but "The Meaning of Life" easily bests either "Holy Grail" or "Life of Brian." The quote at the beginning of this review is actually from "Life of Brian," but perfectly suits the stories told by "The Meaning of Life" to try and answer the true question as to what really is the meaning of life.
The sketches are not particularly politically correct. In fact, they are just plain wrong. From the memorable beginning "short film" about "The Crimson Permanent Assurance" until the final moments, nothing is sacred. "Part I: The Miracle of Birth" details a hospital operating room where the doctors are more interested in impressing the executive staff of the hospital and impressing everybody than they are with the pregnant woman on the operating table. "The Miracle of Birth – Part II: The Third World" describes Roman Catholics as the Third World and their decisions against using birth control as a serious social problem where a wife almost unknowingly gives birth while doing the dishes and the family must send their children away for science experiments to survive.
After birth, "Part II: Growth and Learning" finds Michael Palin giving a rousing sermon to boys in a religious school. The lessons of the sermon are quite hilarious, unless you are deeply religious. The following scene finds John Cleese acting as a schoolteacher and the first pair of gratuitous tits as he performs sexual acts on his wife to educate his class, who are frighteningly uninterested. "Part III: Fighting Each Other" shows an inept sergeant attempting to perform drill and ceremonies and then finding Eric Idle suffering a flesh wound where his leg was removed by a tiger. They find the poor tiger and then question the tiger on his motives and whether or not he digested Idle's leg.
The middle of the film gives way and offers up "Part IV: Middle Age." This short scene features lone Python American Terry Gilliam and John Cleese acting as a married couple and trying to order conversation from a menu. The "Part V: Live Organ Transplants" is hilarious in its bloodshedding and finds two paramedics forcefully removing a liver from an organ donor that is called upon for his organs before he dies. Both scenes that follow the odd "Middle of the Film" are vintage Python moments and show that incredible British humor that the six men excelled at.
"Part VI" is split into two parts. The first, "Part VI: The Autumn Years" features the hilarious song "Isn't it Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?" and then moves along to the grotesque take on the sin of sloth and features the most impossibly rotund fellow eating, vomiting and ultimately exploding into bits of flesh and partly digested dinner. The second, "Part VIB: The Meaning of Life" features Terry Jones portraying a cleaning lady that is reminiscent of the peasant lady in "Holy Grail" and then being punished with a bucket of puke after stating a racist remark about Jews. This finishes up with Eric Idle portraying a French waiter and quaintly telling the audience to "F**k off."
The film concludes with a look at "Part VII: Death" and finds Graham Chapman being punished for his lifelong crime spree of making sexist references. His punishment is death by being chased by a plethora of terribly sexy and topless women having their breasts happily bounce behind him and fulfilling the promise by Eric Idle in the film's introduction of providing lots of gratuitous tits. Oh, the irony. After Chapman's character dies from falling off a cliff, Death visits the house of English upper class who have assembled for a dinner party. After Death brings about doom from salmon, everybody is seen at dinner as Graham Chapman sings "Christmas in Heaven" and the film concludes the theme music.
Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle and Michael Palin were six very funny men. They relished in sexual humor when given the opportunity and this opportunity was given in spades by "Monty Pyton's The Meaning of Life." If the word ‘tits' offends you, then this movie will greatly offend you. Every chance the crew had to show a lovely pair, they grace the screen. There are plenty of penis puns and dick jokes abound throughout the film. Sperm, ejaculation and other sexual innuendos are poorly hidden throughout the film. This is the most adult and perhaps most humorous of the old Monty Python films and while it is a collection of short sketches that creates a coherent motion picture, it weaves a funny story that helps to tackle the ageless question of the "Meaning of Life."
There where a few times when I had hoped that "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" looked just a little bit better than what it did. However, my general consensus is that this movie looks awfully damn good considering its age and low-budget beginnings. Many of the sequences shot for "The Meaning of Life" had production values similar to "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and it has never been said that any Monty Python film was overly striking. Regardless, the 1.85:1, VC-1/1080p encoded release shows a great deal of detail throughout its running length and the best coloring of anything done by the five Brits and one American. The only scene that was overly fuzzy was the dreamy feeling opening sequence that was populated with a lot of haze and a dreamlike feeling that hindered the strong amount of detail seen elsewhere. A few scenes did show very high levels of detail and surpassed any expectations I had had. Black levels are good. Coloring shows nicely saturated colors and warm fleshtones. This has never been a film that looked superb, but the HD-DVD was impressive.
During the commentary track, Terry Gilliam stated that the DVD sounded better than the theatrical release. It seems safe to assume that the new Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack provided on the HD-DVD release pushes the envelope even further for this 1983 comedy. While not having a lot of ambient sound effects to populate the rear surrounds, the busy front channels perfectly capture the jokes and humor contained on the soundtrack. The film's musical moments sound quite good and the chorale moments echo loudly through the entire soundscape of the 5.1 mix. This low-budget comedy primarily features heavy British accents. Fortunately, every spoken word comes across clean and strong. A French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0 Mono mix is also provided and is far inferior to the English multi-channel mix.
Universal has provided a wonderful release for "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" on HD-DVD and has delivered all of the great features from past DVD release. When selecting to play the film, an Eric Idle Introduction may be selected to precede the film and Idle simply spends his time selling the value of the numerous bare breasts that will be found in the film. Idle is quite proud of all the gratuitous comedy in the film and makes a funny little poem about it. While watching the film, a Feature Commentary with Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam may be selected. Advertised as "Hilarious" on the packaging, the two Terrys sit back and enjoy the film and provide long bouts of silence that is mixed with laughter and a few nice tidbits about the making of the film. Had they spent more time talking about the film, this could have been an incredible track. The Soundtrack for the Lonely is another commentary of sorts and seems to feature a few folks watching the film and making noise alongside the viewer to prevent them from feeling lonely. Odd.
Seven Snipped Bits (18:24) feature additional scenes that were removed from the film. The "Martin Luther" scene is another humorous look on Lutheran and Protestant ideology contrasted against the Catholic themes previously poked fun at. "An Expert," "Cheese Lady," "Randy in the Jungle," and three other scenes are also contained in this section. These were funny, but would have only slowed the film down.
The School of Life selections contain four making of features. The Meaning of Making The Meaning of Life (48:59) is a lengthy vintage feature that features the Python's discussing their rationale for making this film and their thoughts on making the film. This is a very funny, yet serious look at the making of the film and this amount of quality time with the Monty Python gang is well worth anybody's time. Education Tips (6:01) is a short little collection of tips on things such as "Choosing a Really Expensive School." This is just more Python hilarity that brought back memories of the old "Holy Grail" trailers. Un Film De John Cleese (1:32) is a very short ‘promotional vehicle' by John Cleese and is just plain funny and entirely focused on John Cleese. The final short of this section, Remastering a Masterpiece (8:21) took a Python look at the restoration for the film.
The Showbiz submenu featured a full menu of promotional and musical bits. The Songs unsung – 3 Alternate Song Versions featured Every Sperm is Sacred (Eric Idle Version) (3:04), It's the Meaning of Life (Terry Jones Version) (2:49) and Christmas in Heaven (Eric Idle Version) (3:14). These were recorded for a recent DVD release and features alternate Python members singing the others' songs, as they would have sounded if Idle or Jones had sung in place of others. The Selling the Meaning of Life contained the Trailer, TV Spots, US Promotion, Rejects, UK Radio and Telepathy. Rejects were failed posters for the film, but funny and with commentary. Telepathy was billed as the first movie trailer to every use modern telepathic techniques to promote the film.
The fourth and final submenu, Fish, featured three segments. The first, Virtual Reunion (3:09) was a hokey little bit that is just hard to describe and features the five surviving Python members (Graham Chapman has passed along). This was just odd. What Fish Think (16:05) was one of the lengthier bonus materials and featured a virtual aquarium with vocal additions that pretended to allow the fish to think out loud. This would be a funny little segment to loop on a television for innocent bystanders to witness. Finally, Credits wer the DVD special edition credits carried over to the world of high definition.
"Monty Python's The Meaning of Life is a little lewd. It is a little crude. It can be called a little rude. There are plenty of boobs in the nude. I remember a horrible scene featuring food. It put me in a damn funny mood. I'm not going to even try to rhyme the word dude. Truth be told, these skits that are lewd, crude, rude and has nude boobs and food if flat out hilarious. It isn't a film for the easily troubled viewers out there. The Python boys had a great sense of humor, but were not shy when it came to pushing a few buttons. That is what made them great and "The Meaning of Life" is their most personal and entertaining film. The HD-DVD features sometimes stunning visuals and a soundtrack that does the best it can with the provided source materials. The bonus materials are a huge list, but not nearly as long as the list would entail. Some of them are just plain odd, such as the soundtrack for the lonely and the virtual reunion. This is rather nice HD-DVD release for this cult comedy. It sure isn't a piece of shit when you look at it…