Monty Python's Life of Brian Review
By James Brundage
The year was 1979 and the world was threatened by fundamentalism. Following the end of a prosperous period, people had begun to become mistrustful again. Right-wingers were beginning to weed their way into the political landscape, and the hearts of men and the stupidity of the recklessly religious were creating the large voting bloc that we have today.
And a bunch of brilliant Brits had to do bugger with it.
The official Python response to the ultimate stupidity of blind faith and a lack of knowledge of religious context is Monty Python's Life of Brian, the story of the man born in the manger next to Christ. Misunderstood and eventually mistaken for a messiah, Brian becomes the man of action within a myriad of groups fighting for the liberation of the Jews from the Romans.
Sadly, these groups are more concerned with fighting each other than uniting and fighting the common enemy.
Pick your parallel - this Python piece can hit up almost any social and political parody while still taking time for alien abductions, crucifixion checklists, and a pair of Romans with bad names and speech impediments.
The Python pack does an amazing job of mixing inane humor with political commentary that is even more relevant now that it was when it was first released. To date is about the only movie that puts Christ is proper social context. Unlike The Passion of the Christ (or The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre, as I have heard it called), which implicitly paints the picture of Christ as the one and old person ever executed as a messiah, Life of Brian paints an accurate picture of the time: holy men and messiahs were common and conflicted characters, and it wasn't anything out of the ordinary to see one, two, three, or a hundred people put to death on the cross.
The only problems that Life of Brian has are technical: Its special effects and camerawork are pitiful, and its sound mix is so bad that you'll wish for a normalization feature on a DVD player to even it all out. Hopefully the theatrical re-release will clean up the audio and let people focus on the funny parts.
Technical issues not withstanding, Life of Brian stands as Python's best effort at mixing great gags with cultural commentary. Pundits may point out that it might not be their funniest film ever, but I'll take a bad Python over a good modern comedy any day.
Facts and Figures
Box Office Worldwide: $20M
Production compaines: Handmade Films Ltd., Python (Monty) Pictures Limited
Cast & Crew
Starring: Graham Chapman as Brian Cohen, John Cleese as Arthur, Terry Gilliam as Crucifee, Eric Idle as Mr. Cheeky, Terry Jones as Mandy Cohan, Michael Palin as Wise Man #3, Terence Bayler as Gregory, Carol Cleveland as Mrs. Gregory, Kenneth Colley as Jesus, Gwen Taylor as Mrs. Big Nose, Sue Jones-Davies as Judith, John Case as Pilate's Wife, Neil Innes as A Weedy Samaritan, Charles McKeown as False Prophet / Blind Man / Giggling Guard / Stig, John Young as Matthias, Andrew MacLachlan as Another Official Stoners Helper / Giggling Guard, Bernard McKenna as Parvus / Official Stoners Helper / Giggling Guard, George Harrison as Mr. Papadopolous, Chris Langham as Alfonso / Giggling Guard