“I’m afraid I have no choice but to sell you all for medical experiments.”
The Scoop: 1983 R, directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam and starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin
Tagline: It took God six days to create the earth, and Monty Python just 90 minutes to screw it up.
Justin’s review: The final film in the standard Monty Python trilogy after Holy Grail and Life of Brian, Meaning of Life) is a harkening back to the Flying Circus days. Under the thinly veiled premise of figuring out the meaning of life, the film progresses through a series of sketches that cover everything from birth to war to exploding fat people to talking fish.
It’s more like a 90-minute version of their show instead of another movie, but that shouldn’t detract your enjoyment too much. It should BOOST it! Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed!
When I say “hodge-podge,” I mean an entire fjord’s worth of variety… and you got enough to pick and choose your favorites here. For showtunes fans, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a few classic musical numbers here to enjoy (from the spectacular “Every Sperm is Sacred” ballad to the drawn-out final number). There’s more sex and grossness here that should beckon to current South Park and Baywatch fans.
All of the cast members give multiple brilliant roles, including John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. There’s a bit of trademark Monty Python animation, though not nearly as much as the first two films. What I thought was particularly cheeky, however, was a short film — The Crimson Permanent Assurance — presented before Meaning of Life, one of pirate accountants taking their skyscraper for a bit of looting and pillaging. If you watch closely, that short is referenced in the larger movie.
So what can I say? There were certainly scenes that bored me and were less than inspired, however, these were few and far between. It made me laugh, it made me rewind a few times, it made me refuse dinner mints at restaurants. Meaning of Life is still much better than most comedies released today, and that’s good enough for everybody.
- Patricia Quinn has a very revealing cameo as the Helen, the Instructor’s Wife
- Arthur Jarrott is condemned to death for the crime of “first degree making of sexist jokes within a moving picture”
- Execution just got a lot more, er, visually exciting
- It takes a lot for the Grim Reaper to get some respect
- Notice the re-occurring themes of sex and fish
- Watch for the special messages during the credits
- Reader Jonah writes in: “Matt Frewer is one of the younger accountants during the short who is a victim of the old rebellion.”
- Michael Palin’s line, “Hey, but I didn’t eat the mousse,” is a rare Python ad-lib and was not in the script.
- What did Eric Idle say was the only character to appear in all the Python Movies? God.
- Originally called “Monty Python’s Fish Film”.
- According to Terry Gilliam, before the Pythons decided to make a sketch movie about the meaning of life, two ideas were considered for the movie. The first one was “Monty Python’s World War III”, where they would all be soldiers wearing military uniforms full of advertisements, and the Armies would be sponsored. Another idea that was under consideration was a trial movie, where the Pythons are judged to be making not a movie, but a tax dodge. They spend the entire movie trying to prove they’re making a proper movie, trying to make an adaptation of “Hamlet” in the Caribbean. At the end, they’re found guilty and sentenced to execution, and each one of them gets to decide how they’re going to die. This idea was used in “The Meaning of Life” in the death sketch, where Arthur Jarrett (Graham Chapman) has chosen to die while pursued by naked girls.
- Python refused to show Universal Studios a film script, figuring, as Eric Idle said, “If we couldn’t work out how to make a Monty Python film, they couldn’t tell us.” Instead they showed them a poem, which was a summary of the film, and a budget projection. “And to their credit,” says Idle, “they paid for the film on that.”
Chaplain: Let us praise God. O Lord…
Congregation: O Lord…
Chaplain: …Ooh, You are so big…
Congregation: …ooh, You are so big…
Chaplain: …So absolutely huge.
Congregation: …So absolutely huge.
Chaplain: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
Congregation: Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell You.
Chaplain: Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and…
Congregation: And barefaced flattery.
Chaplain: But You are so strong and, well, just so super.
Lady Presenter: Hello, and welcome to ‘The Middle of the Film’, the moment where we take a break to invite you, the audience, to join us, the film-makers, in ‘Find the Fish’. We’re going to show you a scene from another film and ask you to guess where the fish is, but, if you think you know, don’t keep it to yourselves. Yell out so that all the cinema can hear you. So, here we are with… ‘Find the Fish’.
Doctor #1: That’s better…still, something missing…
Doctor #2: Hmmm?
Doctor #1: Hmmm…
Both Doctors: [together, to each other] Patient!
Expectant Mother: What do I do?
Doctor #1: What?
Expectant Mother: What do I do?
Doctor #1: Nothing, dear, you’re not qualified!
Hospital Administrator: And what are you doing this morning?
Doctor #2: It’s a birth.
Administrator: Ah. And what sort of thing is that?
Doctor #1: Well…that’s when we take a new baby out of a lady’s tummy.
Administrator: Wonderful what we can do nowadays.
Drill Sergeant: Don’t stand there gaping, like you never saw the Hand of God before!
Businessman #1: What we’ve come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One, people are not wearing enough hats. Two, Matter is energy. In the universe, there are many energy fields, which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source, which act upon a person’s soul. However, this soul does not exist automatically, as orthodox Christianity teaches, but has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved due to mankind’s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.
Businessman #2: What was it that you said about hats?
Grim Reaper: Shut up, you American! You Americans, all you do is talk, and talk, and say “let me tell you something” and “I just wanna say.” Well, you’re dead now, so shut up!
Father: The mill’s closed. There’s no more work. We’re destitute.
Father: I’m afraid I have no choice but to sell you all for medical experiments.
Wife of Guest #4: We have to go – um – I’m having a rather heavy period.
Guest #4: And… we… have a train to catch.
Wife: Yes… of course. We have a train to catch. And I don’t want to start bleeding over the seats.
If You Liked This Movie, Try These
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Monty Python’s Life of Brian
- And Now For Something Completely Different