“He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!”
The Scoop: 1979 R, directed by Terry Jones and starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Eric Idle
Tagline: See the movie that’s controversial, sacrilegious, and blasphemous. But if that’s not playing, see The Life of Brian.
Summary Capsule: A mistaken messiah tries to find love, peace, Pilot’s wife, spaceships, and sanity in ancient Jerusalem.
Justin’s rating: Sing me a song on the harpsicord, man
Justin’s review: Whilst Monty Python and the Holy Grail is forever installed into the lexicon of famous collegiate cinema treats, this comedy troupe’s further filmatic productions, such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian (MPLoB) (pronounced “Michelob”) are forced to take the backseat of the family sedan. No more! we say to our computer monitor, vaguely wondering if we’ll ever get around to anything resembling a legitimate review here.
[Reviewer pauses to take a gulp of very flat Sprite, which at the surface resembles heavy water.]
[Elapse two hours. Reviewer has come back in his fish slippers, feeling very funky.]
What you’re going to have to deal with at the start is whether you consider Life of Brian to be sacrilegious, offensive, and capable of destroying your very soul. As a movie critic and a Christian, I don’t personally think so… but the subject matter contained within this movie has brought lesser men (by “men” we mean “anything with two feet, opposable thumbs, and an extreme distaste for country music”) to their knees.
This film follows a poor sod named Brian (Graham Chapman), an innocent half-Roman, half-Jew who happens to be born the same day as Jesus. Due to some cosmic joke, he’s forever doomed to be mistaken for the messiah and is ultimately betrayed and executed, where he refuses to break down and beg mercy from the evil King Richard Longshanks. Or something like that.
As with most of Monty Python works, Life of Brian consists of a series of comedy sketches pieced together with wacky animation interjected throughout. All of the Python Players have multiple roles, ranging from Stan (who wants to be called “Loretta”) to a Roman Centurion named “Biggus Dickus”. It’s all in good fun, and frequently so hilarious that we had to rewind to rewatch scenes. I love movies like that, even though it’s more work for my thumbs.
The best part of what Monty Python does is that they take insanity seriously and to a new level. Brian goes to graffiti a Roman palace and is caught by a guard, who gruffly teaches him the proper Latin grammar for “Romans Go Home”… and then makes him write it 100 times. There’s haggling in the middle of a chase scene, an ex-leper, and even some aliens to boot. And if you’re pining (no! not for the fjords!) for the stupid guards in Holy Grail, then they must be related to the dolts who help out the crucifixion party.
And, hey, if you’re looking for a moral message underlining Life of Brian, it’d be something like “Don’t blindly follow people who carry gourds — learn to spot the truth for yourself”. As a guy who loves his faith — but not blind faith — I like this argument. However, we here at the Mutant Reviewer were too busy singing the end song “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” to notice such things.
- The large crowd of extras hired to stand under Brian’s window the morning after his night of passion included several Muslim women. The crowd was not notified that Chapman would be fully naked, and when he burst out the Muslim women shrieked (not being allowed to see a naked man other than their husband). Chapman remarked that having a large crowd shrieking at his nudity wasn’t the most encouraging response he could have hoped for.
- Full frontal male AND female nudity! Shocking! Scary!
- That Eric Idle plays two separate people on the crosses
- How many fronts of Judea there are?
- The price of fake beards (haggled down)
- What gift Brian’s mother wasn’t thrilled with getting from the Wise Men?
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? Not only is there “Moose Choreography”, but Eric Idle complains about the song at the end.
Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
Attendee: Brought peace?
Reg: Oh, peace – shut up!
Reg: There is not one of us who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans once and for all.
Dissenter: Uh, well, one.
Reg: Oh, yeah, yeah, there’s one. But otherwise, we’re solid.
Brian: Have I got a big nose, Mum?
Mandy: Stop thinking about sex!
Brian: I wasn’t!
Mandy: You’re always on about it. “Will the girls like this? Will the girls like that? Is it too big? Is it too small?”
Reg: If you want to join the People’s Front of Judea, you have to really hate the Romans.
Brian: I do!
Reg: Oh yeah, how much?
Brian: A lot!
Reg: Right, you’re in.
Brian’s Mother: He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!
Brian: You are all individuals!
Crowd: We are all individuals!
Brian: You have to be different!
Crowd: Yes, we are all different!
Small lonely voice: I’m not different!
Brian: I am NOT the Messiah!
Arthur: I say you are Lord, and I should know. I’ve followed a few.
Stan: Er, no, freedom actually.
Stan: Yeah, they said I hadn’t done anything and I could go and live on an island somewhere.
Coordinator: Oh I say, that’s very nice. Well, off you go then.
Stan: No, I’m just pulling your leg, it’s crucifixion really.
Coordinator: [laughing] Oh yes, very good. Well…
Stan: Yes I know, out of the door, one cross each, line on the left.
Wise man: We were led by a star.
Brian’s mother: Led by a bottle, you mean.
Suicide Squad Leader: We are the Judean People’s Front crack suicide squad! Suicide squad, attack! [they all stab themselves]
Brian: There’s no pleasing some people.
Ex-Leper: That’s what Jesus said.
Matthias: Look, I don’t think it should be a sin, just for saying “Jehovah”.
Jewish Official: You’re only making it worse for yourself!
Matthias: Making it worse? How can it be worse? Jehovah! Jehovah! Jehovah!
Jewish Official: I’m warning you! If you say “Jehovah” one more time (gets hit with rock) RIGHT! Who did that? Come on, who did it?
Stoners: She did! She did! (suddenly speaking as men) He! He did! He!
Jewish Official: Was it you?
Jewish Official: Right…
Stoner: Well you did say “Jehovah. ”
[Crowd throws rocks at the stoner]
Jewish Official: STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT RIGHT NOW! STOP IT! Alright, no one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Even… and I want to make this absolutely clear… even if they do say, “Jehovah. ”
[Crowd stones the Jewish Official to death]
Judith: [on Stan’s desire to be a mother] Here! I’ve got an idea: Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb – which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’ – but that he can have the *right* to have babies.
Francis: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother… sister, sorry.
Reg: What’s the *point*?
Reg: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies, when he can’t have babies?
Francis: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
Reg: It’s symbolic of his struggle against reality.
Matthias: Could be worse.
Centurion: What you mean “Could be worse”?
Matthias: Well, you could be stabbed.
Centurion: Stabbed? Takes a second. Crucifixion lasts hours. It’s a slow, horrible death.
Matthias: Well, at least it gets you out in the open air.
Centurion: You’re weird!
Spectator: I think it was “Blessed are the cheesemakers”.
Bearded Man’s Wife: Aha, what’s so special about the cheesemakers?
Bearded Man: Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.
Pontius Pilate: Stwike him, Centuwion. Stwike him vewy wuffly!
Pontius Pilate: I have a vewy good fwiend in Wome named “Biggus Dickus.”
Boring Prophet: There shall in that time be rumors of things going astray, erm, and there shall be a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth those little things with the sort of raffia-work base, that has an attachment. At that time, a friend shall lose his friend’s hammer, and the young shall not know where lieth the things possessed by their fathers that their fathers put there only just the night before, about eight O’clock.
Mrs. Big Nose: Oh, it’s blessed are the MEEK! Oh, I’m glad they’re getting something, they have a hell of a time.
Reg: What Jesus fails to appreciate is that it’s the meek who are the problem.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
- Monty Python’s Meaning of Life
- The Passion of the Christ
We are all individuals! This movie provides much fodder and Python playfulness for fans. It holds ups well after 36 years for different age groups. Talent abounds with constant laughery and smart cheekiness. I’m looking forward to seeing it, donning my false beard, on the big screen at a showing this Thursday at BlueLight Cinemas in Cupertino, Ca.