I was looking forward to this recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book for my screening of The Ten Commandments; the gang from Monty Python taking on religion.
Brian (Graham Chapman) was born on the same day as Jesus, just in the stable next door, and consequently, spends his life being mistaken for the messiah. There are laughs aplenty as the entire gang, Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam pen and star in this epic take on the pageantry and melodrama of the religious epic (George Harrison serves as executive producer, watch for his cameo), while skewering politics, religion and any other thing that wanders into their sights.
Brian’s life intersects with Christ’s (Kenneth Colley) on a few occasions, but hos own life is filled with challenges, and a relationship with activist, Judith (Sue Jones-Davies). But there are tons of asides, a stoning over the naming of Jehovah, ex-lepers, and the People’s Front of Judea, not to be confused with the Judean People’s Front (SPLITTERS!) and the other activist groups at work against the Empire..
There are Grammar Centurions, commentary on rights, attacks on the Roman Empire, joke Roman names, miracles and revelations as Brian becomes increasingly important, becoming a messiah in his own way.
Like almost all of their bits, this one is timeless, the laughs still come fast and furious, and on top of that, it looks great, as each of the actors takes on multiple roles, to bring the story, and entertaining side lines to life. Nothing is sacred or taboo as the group take on any subject and genre, as they run from religious epic, to science fiction, to musical, it’s all there, and it’s all played wonderfully for laughs.
On top of that the costumes as well as the set and production design, makes the film look great, adding to the skewed reality of the film, as well as poking fun at the films they are taking the mickey out of.
There are lots of great comedic moments, endlessly quotable dialogue, and all of the gang get some great characters to play, and that wonderful song at the end, Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.
The film was considered blasphemous in some countries and was banned from them, and raised the ire of a number of religious groups. For me, personally, I think it is simply hysterical, and has some brilliant gags, lines, and characters.
And after the heavy-handed melodrama and pageantry of the Ten Commandments, this one was a real delight, and still, after all of these years, is brilliantly funny.