Sellers may very well have had no idea what he was getting into with this movie, an adaptation of the cult novel by the same name from author Terry Southern. The film concerns Sellers' business magnate Guy Grand, who adopts a homeless man (Starr) and presents him to the board as his son.
Grand and Son spends the next 100 minutes wreaking havoc on the economy, society, the family, and just about everything else, all through a bizarre series of games and pranks ripped straight from Monty Python sketches (in fact, several Python troupe members had a hand in the film's development). As with any Python experiment, these gags work more often than not, but without any actual Python cast members appearing in the film in major roles, the sequences are far more bizarre than you'd ever expect. When Sellers scoops of two fists of caviar and smashes the glop into his face, we recall Meaning of Life. Many other vignettes -- live-shell wargames in the Grand gameroom; two boxers suddenly stop fighting and start kissing -- recall various Python skits.
Meant as a satire on modern society, the film ultimately comes off as a satire on satire. It's way too over-the-top to make any profound statement; it's like Dumb and Dumber claiming to be a spoof on mental handicaps. Funny, but hardly deep.
The good news is that The Magic Christian (the unfortunate title refers to a Grand cruise ship launched at the end of the film) stands on its own as slapstick, much like a 5-minute Python skit. It's too long and too silly ("Very silly indeed!") to work in the long run, so feel free to start and stop it at will -- you won't miss a thing.
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th December 1969
Distributed by: Commonwealth United Entertaime
Production compaines: Commonwealth United Entertainment, Grand Films Limited
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 9 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Joseph McGrath
Producer: Denis O'Dell
Starring: Peter Sellers as Sir Guy Grand KG, KC, CBE, Ringo Starr as Youngman Grand, Esq., Isabel Jeans as Dame Agnes Grand, Caroline Blakiston as Hon. Esther Grand, Wilfrid Hyde-White as Captain Reginald K. Klaus, Spike Milligan as Traffic Warden, John Cleese as Director in Sotheby's, Richard Attenborough as Oxford Coach, John Le Mesurier as Sir John, Raquel Welch as Priestess of the Whip, Roman Polanski as solitary drinker