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  Monty Python's The Meaning of Life A Wafer Thin Mint?Buy this film here.
Year: 1983
Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Carol Cleveland, Simon Jones, Patricia Quinn, Matt Frewer
Genre: Comedy, Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 5 votes)
Review: Why are we here? What is our purpose on Earth? What is our place in the Universe? What is the Meaning of Life?

Well, it's the Monty Python team's last film, for a start. All their films are episodic, from the sketches of And Now For Something Completely Different to the two follow ups which had proper stories. The Meaning of Life sees them reverting to the sketch format on a bigger budget, but with less satisfying results.

Despite its sustained irreverence, it does attempt to tackle its main topic, however glibly. Divided into segments such as "The Miracle of Birth", "Middle Age" and, naturally, "Death" the general observation of existence is a bitter, even despairing, one where humanity is too concerned with the basics of life (sex, eating, fighting) ever to aspire to anything more spiritually or even cosmically fulfilling.

The level of humour strains for outrageousness throughout, presenting the exploding Mr Creosote, a headmaster taking a sex education lesson a little too far, or a daft attack on the Catholic view on contraception (don't worry, Protestants are lampooned too). It's as if the team got together and thought "Where can we go after Life of Brian? How more controversial can we be?" but neglected the wit and inventive absurdity that made a lot of their previous work so enjoyable.

There are laughs in there (the ocarina, "I didn't have the mousse", reasons for not wanting to drill), but there's too much of the sixth form "shock" humour like the live organ transplants or the execution sequence. It's all perfectly watchable, the songs and musical numbers are surprisingly good, but it could have been so much better. In fact, the best bit is the short supporting feature "The Crimson Permament Assurance" which is fantastically imaginative and gets your hopes up for the quality of the main film. Watch for: the extremely bizarre "Find the Fish" sequence.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Terry Gilliam  (1940 - )

Endlessly imaginative American director and animator who gained fame as one of the Monty Python team. He co-directed the Pythons' films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Monty Python's Meaning of Life, but also helmed his own projects, starting with Jabberwocky and Time Bandits.

The brilliant Brazil was beset with production problems, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was nearly a complete disaster. After that, Gilliam directed other people's stories: The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brothers Grimm. 2006's controversial Tideland returned Gilliam to independent filmmaking, while his failed attempt to bring Don Quixote to the screen was documented in the painful Lost in La Mancha. His next, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, survived the death of its lead actor, and The Zero Theorem was a melancholy sci-fi which proved he could work quickly and efficiently after all.

 
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