Brazil (1985)

Special note: So this review page requires explanation because the context for it has started to vanish into past history. Back in its heyday, people were forever pestering us to review Brazil and berating us for not having done so yet. So one day, we did, except that the reviews we gave them were pure nonsense, born out of stubborn spite. In the best of ways!

Rich’s Rating: At long last.

Rich’s Review: You know, since I’ve been a part of MRFH, either as a member of the forums or as a writer of traditionally sub-par reviews, this film has held a special sacred place in the hearts of the readers here. It seems to be the one film that we’ve been ask “Why haven’t you reviewed Brazil yet?” more than any other. Of course, if anyone asked us “Why haven’t you reviewed Brazil yet?” in reference to another film, they’d probably be quite mad and I’d ignore them, but you get roughly what I mean, in a roundabout way.

But enough is enough, and it’s time for a change. I’m happy to go on record here, risk my journalistic reputation and come out and review this film that many consider to be a cult classic. And with Terry Jones of the Monty Python team at the helm, it’s not hard to see why.

Taking a break from their traditional sketch format movies such as Life, The Universe and Everything, Live at Carnegie Hall, and Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Brazil instead opts for a more Police Squad-esque Genre Spoof, this time lampooning popular ’80s film Blade Runner and it’s ilk.

Strangely, this format doesn’t seem to work very well for them; the trademark Eric Idle animations are absent, replaced instead by shoddy and very crude CGI sequences that make little or no sense; and certainly aren’t as anarchic or funny. Also, much of the script is made up of filler material, desperately trying to limp towards the next punchline as well as sustaining the admittedly quite weak parody element. Some of the jokes retain their quirkiness, and I laughed a few times, but there’s a lot of very pointless dialogue getting in the way.

Perhaps a lot of this is due to the studio interference we now know took place in the editing of Brazil. Several interviews with Terry Jones state that the Studio pressured him to make the film more sombre and less funny, and Jones himself is said to be a bigger fan of the TV edited version of the film broadcast in America, where a lot of the leaden dialogue and pointless animations were cut out, making it a punchier, funnier film.

The Pythons are also ambitious in their casting of outside actors in the film, perhaps something else which brought down the level of comedy we’ve come to expect from this film. Certainly, Vincent Price does an admirable job as central character Sam Lowry, and actor Ian Holm, famous for his portrayal as Frodo in the recent Lord of the Rings films, is oftentimes hilarious as zany Department Head Mr. Helpmann. However, with the exception of a cameo by John Cleese as Jack Lint, there’s nary a Python to be seen, and the lack of their eclectic comic timing lets the film down greatly, and with the exception of Price and Holm, the remaining cast are distinctly B-list actors and actresses.

The plot itself is a confused mess of midgets, storytelling old men, a crazed love interest who may or may not be a “replicant”, origami, time travel and a disease that could wipe out 98% of life on earth — hardly the kind of things that great comedy are built on. I suspect that because of the reputation of the Pythons, and their other great films, people often tend to watch Brazil through rose tinted glasses; a bias which causes Brazil to appear, wrongly in my opinion, on a number of top 100 films lists.

So, would I recommend Brazil? For hardcore fans of Terry Jones, it’s certainly a must, if only to see how much he has improved as a film-maker – and it’s worth seeking out the edited-for-TV version really to give it a fair viewing; but the shallow story and lack of laughs will make it a real push for anyone looking for the light-hearted laugh-fest its so often touted as.

PoolMan’s Rating: Now that’s what I call a sticky situation!

PoolMan’s Review: People sometimes tell me that I lead a charmed life, just because I’m tall. Now, having folded myself endless times into the back of this car, this airline seat, that garbage bin (don’t ask), I can tell you categorically; it IS pretty nice and all, but it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be, you know?

For instance, I’ve bumped into so many doorhangs I actually photoshop all the pictures of myself to remove the scar on my forehead. I’ve broken two chandeliers by walking into them. So imagine the pain I feel for the protagonist of this movie. Poor, poor Big Bird. That guy must have dents all OVER his beak.

Now, my esteemed compatriot Richard has done an excellent job already outlining the plot, so I’d like to have a look more at the faces you see. And what a collection! There are cameos by Chevy Chase, John Candy, Sandra Bernhard, and I think a very young Donald Rumsfeld, if you look close enough. That’s quite amazing, if you stop and think about it.

But the real stars of the show are of course those loveable muppets (are they muppets if they’re not on the Muppets? Was Kermit paid for his cross-package deal?). Big Bird is joined by all his famous counterparts as he completes his run across the country, including Oscar the Grouch, Ernie, Bert, and many more. Of course, what with all the difficulties that Rich touched on above, it’s not long before the whole thing devolves into a thinly veiled stab at the modern day Catholic Church.

But at least it’s funny, and that’s what counts. There was always so much heart on the TV show, especially when they included that hilarious addict character (can’t remember the name now, though, darnit) who was always hallucinating funny stuff.

Sure, Brazil is a little flawed, but I’ll tell you this: if you ever see a funnier toilet-related scene (that Oscar… so crazy!) I’ll eat Caesar.

Or you know… I’ll bite him. Wouldn’t do to actually eat our mascot. Not with that overprotective master of his.

Kyle’s Rating: More important than friendship!

Kyle’s Review: Here’s the thing about the film Brazil: they released it as a 3-disc DVD Criterion Collection thingy where you get like 3 different versions of the movie in cool blue plastic cases and whatever. And it was at my local Wherehouse Music used for the longest time for $40. Kinda expensive, considering it was used and I never had $40 on me. But I kept going in there and for like a year and a half I’d always ask to see it (they kept it on a shelf behind the registers) and I’d look at it, then say “Uh, maybe next time.” It was pretty pathetic, and since I really only got into the store on the weekends I’d be all hungover, unshaven, and usually wearing women’s underwear (long story, but most of us know what college life entails at night, and little kids reading can find out for themselves).

Finally, one day the superhot and supercool supergirl who works there was like “Hey, you’ve been checking that out forever and I bet by now it’s gone down in price or something” and magically she printed out a new price sticker that knocked it down to $28.99. Now you’re talking! I bought it up, brought it home, and promptly neglected to watch it. It’s one of those movies where if you’re seen it once, you don’t really need to see it all the time because it’s sort of depressing and long anyway, and I won’t have the free time to watch until the summer rolls along.

Oh, but then I told my friend Jill that I had bought it. And Brazil is her favorite movie; I guess she’s on her second VHS copy of it because she burned out the first one from repeated viewing. That’s weird, but still cool because Jill is thin and hot and has crazy curly blond hair and a penchant for leather pants. So she was like “I can’t believe you bought that DVD set, I was going to buy it” and I was like “I can burn you copies, but only in exchange for you-know-what” (Can you earmuff it for the rest of this review please, kids? thanks! – Kyle) and she was like “You’re a loathsome, offensive insensitive pig jerk hybrid” and I was like “That was so hot! Do you want to make out?” This went on for hours. The making out, I mean. At the end, I promised to burn her copies with my new computer. Is that legal? If not, keep that on the dl, please.

My point is that Brazil can totally **** up your relationships if you aren’t careful. That’s how powerful a film it is. The song is totally awesome, however. Especially the version by Frank Sinatra. That is some fun stuff! Engleberg Humperdink also sings it, and that’s a nice catchy version, but it’s only cool enough for me to have downloaded in the past, and while I like that version it’s not quite cool enough for me to check the spelling of that guy’s name. So it could be off. I’m sorry. But, ah, I did that deliberately in keeping with the zaniness of Brazil. Sure, yeah, why not?

So be careful if you’ve never seen Brazil before. People will force you to watch it, telling you that it’s “visionary” and “artistic” and will “make you re-evaluate your wretched life and your job at Home Depot.” But who cares? It’s a great movie, sure, but the important thing is to see it so those pretentious film idiots will stop telling you that you should see it. Then when they’re like “Brazil is blah blah blah” you can cut them off and be like “Oh, yeah, well I finally saw it” and when they think they’ve got another mindless recruit for their boring serious film discussions and they ask “so what did you think?” you can go “Eh…” and then launch into a discussion of how awesome The O.C. is. That’ll learn ’em, you know? Dude, Rachel Bilson is smokin’ hot. Yeah! That’s one thing that I’m certain of!

Justin’s Rating: One thumb up, another one slightly bent due to an unfortunate accident I had in the second grade

Justin’s Review: Brazil. By now, the world has fallen in love with this movie about a runaway serial killer hooker with a heart of gold, and her quest to reunite the four pieces of the Triforce in order to save Fantasia. Yet, as hard as it is to believe, there was a time when the average Joe or Jane on the street lived without this awesome presence in their lives.

Jumping into the MRFH Wayback Time Machine, we travel back to 1885, the year Marty McFly saved Doc Brown from being killed by Buford Tanner, and also the year when the first film was created. Tinkering away in his shop on Spooner Street, a meek man named Snuffle Upugus combined his love of all things moving with a new technology called “moving light” to piece together Brazil. Working on a shoestring budget of only twelve half-pennies, Upugus used friends and family members to fill in the essential positions of “cast”, “crew”, and “belly dancers”. Many people have since wondered how a relatively poor man living in the Victorian era could have access to advanced computer special effects, but that is because Upugus loved guns, and hijacked our Time Machine to leap forward to 1999 and rip off The Matrix’s bullet time. Our bad.

When first released to theaters (then called “Upugus’ Living Room”), the public had a hard time knowing what to make of this revolutionary new project. Some screamed, others fainted, and a few priests tried to perform exorcisms on the projector screen. This gave Upugus an idea for his second project, Hot Priests And The Temple Of Doom, but he sadly died via pitchfork before this could ever be.

Once VHS leapt to the mainstream in 1904, Brazil jumped to the top of best-selling and most-rented lists everywhere. It helped that no other films would be released until the seventies. Teddy Roosevelt himself gave the choice critic quote for the movie poster when he uttered, “A Bully Good Time, I Daresay!”

A few impressionable teenagers, lacking direction and burdened with an abundance of spare time, even saw spiritual direction in Brazil, and started their own cult revolving around the movie. Known for their slurred begging of repeat viewings of the film — “Give us more, man!” — these “Mormons” formed their own communities where they could eat their Popcorn Of The Damned in peace.

Today, Brazil is used as a primer in every schoolchild’s classroom as an authoritative source for politics, sports, the alphabet, advanced calculus, gross anatomy, and decifering the mystery of women. It’s even been so influential in world governments that every prime minister, president, queen, and witch doctor either runs under a “Brazil” platform or faces a unanimous defeat. Truly, we owe a great debt to this movie.

Which sucks, by the way.

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