Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Movie #358: Life of Brian

Life of Brian is a Monty Python movie, and as such stars Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin. Various other folks, like Carol Cleveland, Sue Jones-Davies, and John Young also drop by.

Brian Cohen (Chapman) is born at the same time as Jesus of Nazareth, and is briefly mistaken for the Messiah at birth. His mother (Jones) gets to receive the gifts meant for Jesus, if briefly.

Grown up, Brian falls in with the People's Front of Judea, a Jewish resistance group led by Reg (Cleese) that spends most of its time griping about the Romans (and other resistance groups). Captured by the Romans during a terrorist attack that fails due to a fight with another of said groups, Brian escapes from the ineffectual forces of Pilate (Palin) and accidentally draws a crowd while preaching to avoid notice. Said crowd thinks he's the Messiah, chase him all over God's creation (lol) and wind up drawing the Romans' notice, which gets him crucified.

In the midst of all this, we get lots of funny bits and vignettes. Palin plays an ex-leper, cured by Jesus, who's pissed off that he's lost his livelihood, but not quite enough to go ask Jesus to change him back. Jones-Davies plays Judith, another member of the PFJ, who winds up becoming Brian's lover (briefly).

As Monty Python movies go, this is probably the tightest, script-wise. Holy Grail is probably funnier and more accessible; this is a little smarter, but we see which one get made into a musical. Chapman (a bit ironically) plays straight man most of the movie, only getting to do comedy himself when he plays Biggus Dickus, who "wanks as high as any in Wome!" as Pilate says. Cleese is perfect as Reg, but also as the harried Centurion trying to make sense of Pilate's ramblings.

I like this movie, of course, because it takes a shot at organized religion, and the Pythons got some major shit for that back in the day. It kinda feels tame now, but I rather suspect that a similar movie would be met with similar shock, especially if it was done well. And given the current rash of religious shit like God's Not Dead and so forth, we desperately need someone with this kind of courage.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Lilo & Stitch