Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, the final film from the famed British comedy troupe, is by far their nastiest. It was a shocking viewing experience 30 years ago, and it remains so today.
After the successes of The Holy Grail and The Life of Brian, the Pythons apparently struggled to come up with a narrative for another film. Therefore, they wound up making a film about “everything,” essentially giving them a platform to go back to their sketch-comedy roots.
The result is a scattershot adventure, with much of it making very little sense—but most of it being very funny. Sketches about birth, religion and death abound, and the Pythons didn’t hold back when it came to visual and verbal obscenity.
The liver-donor segment is still one of the goriest and most-disturbing sequences ever put into a comedy, and it somehow manages to be hilarious. Hats off to Terry Gilliam and his ability to scream and choke like a man having his liver removed while still alive.
Of course, there’s the Mr. Cresote sketch, which I’m guessing holds the cinematic record for onscreen vomit volume. Again, it’s thoroughly disgusting, yet somehow hilarious. When I originally saw this as a young person sneaking into an R-rated movie in the early 1980s, I just saw lots of puke. Today, I see it’s a marvel that John Cleese managed to remain composed as the French waiter witnessing, and perhaps instigating, the carnage.
It’s sad that 30 years have passed without a true Python cinematic reunion. Somebody give these guys lots of money, and get them back onscreen.
Special Features: This 30th Anniversary Edition disc features an exclusive, one-hour reunion of the Pythons, with all of them (sans the late Graham Chapman) sitting in a room discussing the making of the movie. (Eric Idle appears via satellite video.) It’s a beautiful thing to see them laughing and reminiscing together, alone justifying the price of the disc. Cleese actually seems genuinely interested in some sort of movie reunion, although he’s teased us before. You also get a bunch of features from previous editions, including deleted scenes, a commentary and a documentary.