Normally, the lack of a plot would be a detriment to a film. But in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, a plot would only get in the way of the British comedy troupe's inspired hijinks. Unlike their closest American counterparts -- the evolving cast of Saturday Night Live -- Monty Python had the good sense to resist trying to make their movies conform to anything more than the thinnest thread of a gossamer strand of plot. Their classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is nothing more than a bunch of skits strung together with an Arthurian setting; The Life of Brian does the same, but veers closer toward satire by utilizing the life of Christ.
In The Meaning of Life, the Pythons manage to take us from "The Miracle of Birth" to "Death" (who is invited in for drinks, then shot). The meaning of life is revealed at the end. Before that, though, there are plenty of sequences featuring the group's trademark psychedelic animation. They pack in a handful of songs about topics as diverse as accounting and cosmology. There is projectile vomit humor and menstrual wit. Breasts bounce on topless female joggers in slow motion. Normally, this would be juvenile. But here, it's juvenile and philosophical. As they sing in one song, "Is life just a game where we make up the rules, while we search for something to say?" This movie is a wonderful way to spend several hours while you avoid answering the question.
The two-disc set includes, well, a ton of other hilarious junk. In fact, most of the second disc, which includes a "The Meaning of the Making of The Meaning of Life" is the equivalent of a Monty Python reunion. (There is an actual "Virtual Reunion," too.) Even the disc's interface is cheekily irreverent and irrelevant. Before the main feature itself, the iconic Universal Studios logo of a globe is grabbed by a cartoon hand, and poked until it yields the disc's interactive menus.
One of these features is the option to play the film "With Prelude." In this new segment, Eric Idle, or one of the troupe -- all British people look alike to me -- stands in front of a blue screen image of the Universal skyscraper, and recites the following: "There's everything in this movie -- everything that fits. From the meaning of life in the universe, to girls with great big tits." Hooray!
Publication date: 12/04/03