J.D. Lafrance
Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life DVD Review

Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life

January 7, 2003

Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, ,
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, MichaelPalin, Carol Cleveland, Simon Jones, Patricia Quinn, Judy Loe, Andrew MacLachlan, Mark Holmes, Valerie Whittington, Jennifer Franks, Imogen Bickford-Smith, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

‘The Meaning of Life’, falling somewhere between sketch show and circus, marks the third incarnation of the classic Monty Python formula. Outrageous caricatures (they’re spot on), social satire, crudity, nudity, I wish I could say rudity; the issue has never been so elegantly handled. In fact, the madness that is Monty Python seems to provide a fitting parody of the madness that is life. The film’s progression through the stages of life, from birth to death, provides a loose basis from which the pythons produce some of their most memorable material (in particular, the ‘third world’ sketch!).

What makes a classic? In the case of Monty Python, the endurance of the material is what makes it so fresh, even by today’s standards. Respect must be paid to a group of comedians who can produce shock comedy which is just as hilarious and often hideous today as it was back in 1983. The Meaning of Life also contains some outstanding performances from Cleese, Palin, Idle, etc. The unique relationship between the pythons and their understanding of the script, due to co-writing it, all contributes to what is widely considered a comedy masterpiece.

Special Features

This edition of the film also includes the Director’s Cut. Unfortunately, not only is it obvious why the extra material was cut (not funny), but it also managed to avoid being remastered to fit the crisp look of the rest of the film. The extra scenes look shoddy and scrappy, and seem also to have by-passed the editing desk. Instead they appear to have been thrown in to add an extra feature to the DVD.

Just when I thought I’d escaped the nauseating tedium of the Director’s Cut, along come the Deleted Scenes. No, these are not new scenes which failed to make either cut of the film, but the extra scenes from the director’s cut with a brief commentary from either Gilliam or Jones. Saying this, its probably worth viewing these scenes in isolation from the main feature as they end up breaking up the Director’s Cut. The commentary will be interesting for any Python fan but you can probably tell why they were cut without an explanation.

The Director’s Commentary is informative and sometimes funny, giving both Gilliam and Jones the chance to run through there respective features. It is also well timed, fading to allow the viewer to hear the original audio track from the scene they have just had described.

The featurette, ‘The meaning of making the meaning of life’ contains interviews with all the Pythons, plus the usual tales you’d expect. Unfortunately, its not particularly interesting and any fans craving after extra Python humour will probably be disappointed.

‘Remastering a Masterpiece’ is a very funny little featurette. I won’t ruin it for the fans of Python, it really is so funny. Its probably the best of the special features.

Other features include: DVD ROM content, exclusive features from Python (Monty) Pictures, and a number of features showcasing more Python humour.

The special features on this edition really make this one for the fans. If you haven’t seen any Python at all, its probably not worth parting with the likely sum of £20+. It is a great film though, and deserves a place in every film collection. Just try and avoid watching the Director’s Cut if you can.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 80%



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