There is a good chance that I have seen religious satire films before today’s movie, but none of them really stuck with me as much as this one. Granted, my being a fan of Monty Python probably helps make this movie be more prominent in my memories but still. During the summer of ’92, while I was going back and forth between Texas and my grandparents house in Nashville while my family got ready to move to Atlanta, this movie came on Comedy Central. As soon as I saw the words Monty Python, I knew I had to watch it because it would be incredibly funny. Years later, after wondering why I had not bought it sooner, I finally got the DVD which is why I am watching Monty Python’s Life OF Brian today.
The plot: Three wise men men enter Jerusalem and approach a stable, where a woman is resting with her newborn baby. The woman starts to kick them out until they mention they brought gifts, and she quickly invites them to look at the baby. Asking the baby’s name, she tells them it is Brian, and they begin to praise Brian before she takes the gifts and kicks them out but as they are leaving, the quickly rush back in and grab the gifts, then head over to the stable where Jesus lays. Years later, Brian and his mother are listening to Jesus sermon on the Mount, but they are so far from him that they can hardly hear what he is saying. When a fight breaks out among some of the people next to them, Brian’s mom convinces him to leave and go to the stoning and Brian starts to go but he notices a young woman walking by and becomes infatuated with her. At the stoning, the crowd consists mainly of women wearing beards as disguises, since women are not allowed to attend. As the priest reads the crimes for the accused, he must constantly tell people not to throw stones early just because someone says Jehovah, and ends up getting stoned to death himself for saying it. Leaving the stoning, Brian and his mom are harassed by an ex-leper and when Brian asks what happens, the man says that Jesus healed him. Entering their home, Brian and his mom see a Roman soldier waiting for them and his mom admits to Brian that his dad was a Roman, and not Jewish like he had been told, but Brian refuses to believe her. Going to his job selling concessions at the colosseum, Brian sees the girl along with her companions in the People’s Front of Judea and asks to join them and their leader, Reg, says that they have a job for Brian. Brian is tasked with painting some graffiti on a wall but when a Roman centurion sees him, he corrects Brian’s grammar and has Brian write it out 100 times, leaving two soldiers to make sure Brian does it. Brian finishes and the two soldiers leave but when a new squad sees the wall covered in graffiti, they chase after Brian but Brian is saved by Judith, the woman he is infatuated with. Judith takes Brian to the PFJ’s headquarters, where Reg is going over their plan to kidnap Pontius Pilate’s wife and issue demands in exchange for her release. Brian joins the group and they manage to sneak into the palace but find another rebellious group inside for the same purpose. Brian tries to convince the two groups to work together but the two groups start killing each other and the guards end up arresting Brian, as he is the only one to survive. Brian is taken to see Pilate and Brian tries to explain that he is half Roman. When he says his father’s name is Naughtius Maximus, the guards start laughing as they believe it is a joke name like Biggus Dickus, but Pilate says that he has a friend with that name. As the guards continue to laugh at Biggus Dickus and his wife, Brian manages to escape and the guards give chase. Brian climbs the stairs of an unfinished tower and falls off, only to land in an alien space ship. The space ship takes off into space but another ship chases after it and shoots it, causing the damaged ship to crash back onto Earth. Brian manages to escape the wreckage unharmed but finds himself still being chased by the Roman guards. Trying to hide in the market, Brian attempts to buy a beard as a disguise but the shopkeeper demands that he haggle for it and ends up selling it, along with a gourd, to Brian. Brian makes his way to the PFJ’s headquarters but he is forced to hide on the balcony when the soldiers follow him and search the place. The balcony gives way and Brian ends up knocking over a street preacher and Brian begins speaking to the crowd as the soldiers look for him. When the soldiers leave, Brian leaves as well but the crowd, who started to get interested in what Brian was saying, follow and demand he finish speaking. Brian runs from the crowd and they chase after him, believing him to be the messiah. Heading up a mountain, Brian sees an old man in a ditch and jumps down there to hide, accidentally landing on the man’s foot and causing him to break his vow of silence. The man chastises Brian and begins singing to make up for not speaking for so long, which draws the crowds attention towards them. The crowd believes that Brian is able to preform miracles and when the old man attacks Brian, they believe he is an unbeliever and the crowd grabs him and takes him off to be killed, leaving Brian there with Judith. The next morning, Brian wakes up to find Judith still in bed with him but when he looks out the window, he sees a mass of people outside. His mom questions what is going on and after seeing a naked Judith defending Brian, she addresses the crowd, saying about Brian, saying “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.” Brian tries speaking to the crowd but later, he winds up being arrested by the Romans. Pilate orders Brian to be crucified and Judith goes to see Reg to get them to help free Brian but is frustrated when they begin holding a meeting on what to do. In the city, Pilate addresses the crowd and offers to release one prisoner ut the crowd constantly shouts out names with “R’s” in them, in order to make fun of Pilate’s speech impediment. Judith shouts out to release Brian and the crowd stats chanting it and Pilate, learning that there is a Brian, orders his release. Meanwhile, Brian is hanging on the crucifix when Reg and the PFJ arrive and say they are not a rescue party but are merely there to thank him for being a martyr for them. The soldiers arrive to release Brian but Brian is busy yelling at Reg and the others so another prisoner says that he is Brian. Brian hears him and says that he is Brian, and several other prisoners start saying that they are Brian, but the guards release the first prisoner and carry him off. Suddenly, the Judean People’s Front show up, chasing off the Roman guards, but instead of freeing the prisoners, they commit suicide as a form of political protest. Judith and Brian’s mother both come by to speak with Brian before leaving and Brian is left to lament about his fate but another prisoner starts trying to lift his spirits with a song, which is picked up by all the other prisoners as they all start singing “Always Look On The Bright Side OF Life.”
Monty Python’s Life Of Brian was highly praised by the critics, earning a certified fresh rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that it is, “One of the more cutting=edge films of the 1970s, this religious farce from the classic comedy troupe is as poignant as it is funny and satirical.” Due to the controversial nature of the film at the time, it wound up being banned in several countries, including Ireland and Norway, but the filmmakers would use that as part of their marketing, with posters in Sweden reading, “So funny, it was banned in Norway!” The movie has been considered one of the greatest comedies of all time and the song, “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”, has been considered a great ode to optimism. The movie was a box office hit, earning $20 million off a $4 million budget.
This is an incredibly funny movie and the religious satire still holds up to this day. The acting was great and it just shows that the Python crew have not lost any of their timing in the 4 years since Monty Python And The Holy Grail. The story was very well written and did a good job of making fun of religion without actually making fun of God himself. Some of the jokes were subtler than others but this still makes me laugh almost the whole way through it. I did like the nod to Spartacus, when all of the prisoners were calling out that they were Brian. The costumes and set designs were really well done and showed the improvements off of the bigger budget. I honestly think that if this movie were to come out now, there would be just as many people trying to get it banned now as there were back in the day, which kind of speaks on how fanatical some people are regarding religion. A fantastic comedy that is always funny, no matter how often I see it.
Rating: 5 out of 5