Leave it to Monty Python to tackle one of the biggest questions of the ages in their own silly fashion. The final Monty Python film is kind of bittersweet since it is the last time that all 6 members on film before Graham Chapman’s death. Unlike the previous two films, today’s movie went back to their sketch format roots, having the film be comprised of various sketches focusing on various stages of life. I will be completely honest on the fact that I am having a hard time coming up with a really good intro for today’s movie so why don’t I just go ahead and start watching Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life.
The plot: The movie starts with a short feature titled The Crimson Permanent Assurance, which features some elderly clerks working at an accounting firm and being bossed around by their younger managers. When one of the clerks is sacked, the others rise up in rebellion, tying up the young managers and making them walk a desk plank out a window. Once the managers were dealt with, the clerks begin fashioning weapons and set sail in their office building. After travelling for a while, they soon reach the large financial district and start attacking a large multinational corporation. The members of the corporation fight back but the elderly clerks manage to kill them, with the last of them jumping out a window. By the time the sun starts to set, the financial district is in ruins and the clerks sail away to their next adventure but end up sailing off the edge of the Earth. The feature presentation then starts with a bunch of fish swimming around in a fish tank. When the fish notice that their friend Howard is being eaten, one of them wonders what the meaning of life is.
Part I – The Miracle Of Birth: A pregnant woman is brought into a hospital and taken to a delivery room. The doctors are notified and begin getting ready for delivery but when they enter the room, they find it too barren for their tastes so they get some of the most expensive machines in the hospital, such as the machine that goes “Bing”, and surround the bed with them before the move the pregnant woman to the bed. The doctors then let a bunch of people inside the room, but kick the husband out as he is not qualified to be in there. They quickly turn on all of the machines as the administrator walks in and asks what procedure they are doing, then notices that they have the machine that goes “Bing” and mentions how they are leasing it. After he leaves, the doctors quickly deliver the baby, briefly showing it off to the crowd and the mother, before placing it in an incubator and sending it to the maternity ward. As everyone is leaving, the mother asks what sex the baby is and one of the doctors says it is too early to start assigning roles to the child before he leaves, leaving the woman still lying on the table.
The Miracle Of Birth Part II – The Third World: In Yorkshire, a man is walking down the street when he notices a stork dropping a bundle down his chimney. Inside the house, a woman is washing the dishes when a newborn baby suddenly drops out of her, and the woman asks her daughter to pick it up. The woman then goes into the living room, which is overflowing with children, and starts telling some of them to go to bed while serving other tea. When the husband walks in, he says he has a message for the whole family and the mother goes and gets some more children. The father then says that the mill is closed and he has no choice but to sell all of the children for medical experiments. When the children complain, he says not to blame him but to blame the church, saying he is Roman Catholic and that they oppose the use of contraceptives, causing him to start singing a song called “Every Sperm Is Sacred”. As the children start to file out of the house, a man across the street is watching and complaining about how the Catholics always have children every time they have sex. When his wife comments about how they only had sex twice and had two children, the man says that they are Protestants and that if he wanted to have sex for pleasure, he could go buy a condom and have more sex, he just chooses not to.
Part II – Growth And Learning: A schoolmaster and a chaplain conduct a church service at a public school. Returning to his class, the schoolmaster starts lecturing the kids about where to hang their clothes up before proceeding to continue with his lesson on sex ed. The schoolmaster starts talking about foreplay before pulling out a bed from the front of the class and having his wife come in so he can show the students how to have sex. One of the students starts to snicker and the teacher makes the student join in the Students vs Masters rugby match, where the masters brutally beat the students in the match.
Part III – Fighting Each Other: During a WWI battle, an officer is trying to get his men to find better cover but they stop him as they have birthday presents for him, one of which is a grandfather clock that ends up being shot. As they continue to delay seeking cover to give him a card and cake, one of the men is shot. The officer says he doesn’t want the cake and tries to get them to cover but the men argue that the man who was shot worked hard to make that cake and it would be disrespectful not to eat it. The officer relents and starts having the men get supplies to eat the cake but the men are continuously shot. A man showing the film of those events says that the meaning of life is about differing view points which is why they need an army to defend those view points when he is struck down by the Hand of God. Outside, a sergeant-major is getting his platoon ready to march down the square but when they all have other things to do, he dismisses them and ends up marching by himself. In the 1879 during the Zulu Wars, two officers are summoned to the tent of another officer named Perkins, whose leg has been bitten off in the night. The doctor is summoned and says he believes it was a tiger that did this, which they find hard to believe since they are in Africa. When the Zulus retreat, a search party is sent out to look for the tiger and the think they find one only for it to be two men dressed in a tiger costume. When the two men can’t give a good explanation for being dressed as a tiger, the officer in charge has his men search the thicket behind the men.
The Middle Of The Film: The female host shows a segment called Find The Fish, where a gangly long-armed man, a drag queen, and an elephant-headed butler challenge the audience to find the fish hidden in the scene. The fish in the tank think the segment is brilliant but then comment about how the film hasn’t really said much about the meaning of life.
Part IV – Middle Age: A middle-aged couple enter a building and after telling the hostess that they like pineapples, the hostess has them enter the Dungeon Room, which serves Hawaiian food in a medieval dungeon. After being seated, the waiter offers them a variety of conversation topics and they choose Philosophy and the Meaning of Life but after reading some of the conversation points, the call the waiter back and say that it isn’t any good. The waiter then tells them that there is one item that isn’t on the menu, Live Organ Transplants.
Part V – Live Organ Transplants: Two paramedics ring the doorbell of a man and ask if he will donate his liver. When the man says he is still using it, the paramedics force their way in and pull out the man’s wallet, showing him his liver donor card. The man argues that that is for when he dies but the paramedics force the man into a bedroom and start removing his liver, saying that no one survives when they finish getting it. The man’s wife enters the room and upon hearing what is going on, she says that her husband never listened to her and offers one of the paramedics some tea. Inside the kitchen, the paramedic starts hitting on her but when she turns him down, he asks if they can have her liver. When says no at first but the paramedic has a man sing a song about how insignificant man’s existence is in the universe, she agrees. Meanwhile, a board meeting is taking place at the Very Big Corporation Of America, and they are about to discuss the meaning of life. Suddenly, the board members come under attack from the Crimson Permanent Assurance but as this is going on, the narrator apologizes for this and a skyscraper falls onto the CPA’s building-ship.
Part VI – The Autumn Years: At a fancy restaurant, a piano player is singing “The Penis Song” to the restaurant patrons. Suddenly, a morbidly obese man named Mr Creosote enters the restaurant and asks for a bucket as he is being seated, and he proceeds to vomit onto the floor and bucket. As the man places his order, and continues to vomit onto the bucket and floor, some of the other patrons start vomiting themselves or leave to avoid being there. After eating his meal, the maitre d convinces Mr. Creosote to have an after dinner mint, then takes cover as the mint causes him to explode, showering all of the patrons with vomit and entrails, and causing them to vomit.
Part VI B – The Meaning Of Life: While cleaning up the restaurant, the maitre d and the cleaning lady start talking about the meaning of life and the cleaning lady says that life is just a game that you either win or lose but the maitre d dumps the bucket of vomit on her head and try apologizing when she makes an racist remark but the camera moves and focuses on a waiter, who has the camera follow him out of the restaurant and takes them to the home he was born in and says that his mom told him he could be whatever he wanted so he chose to be a waiter, then realizes that it isn’t really much and tells the camera to stop following him.
Part VII – Death: A condemned man is given his choice as to the manner of his execution and he chooses to be chased off a cliff by a group of topless women, where he lands in a prepared grave, where the priest begins the funeral proceedings. Elsewhere, the grim reaper shows up at a cottage, where the hosts invite him inside. When the hostess introduces him to the dinner guests, They start asking him questions but Death tells them that he has come for them as they are all dead. When one of them asks how they could all dies at the same time, Death points to the salmon mousse that they ate. Death leads them to heaven, where they are shown into an auditorium where characters from throughout the film are seated. Suddenly a lounge singer starts singing “Christmas In Heaven” when the screen is cut off and the host of The Middle Of The Film says that is the end of the film. She then reads the meaning of life, which she says is nothing special as it is “Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations”, before introducing the ending credits.
Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life received mostly positive reviews from the critics, earning a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most critics said the film was true to Python’s form, with some scenes being more humorous than others. When it was released in theaters, Ireland banned it but later gave it a 15 rating (meaning those under the age of 15 shouldn’t watch it) when it was released on video, while England gave it an 18 rating in it’s theatrical release but also lowered it to 15 when it was on video and the US rated it R. While it was a minor box office success, it was not as profitable as it’s predecessors, as it only earned $15 million off of it’s $9 million budget.
This is the Monty Python I remember but I will admit that I liked the other two movies more. This is still a funny movie to watch, with all of the performers doing a good job in their roles throughout the different sketches. The writing was pretty good and the timing between the actors didn’t show any signs of being off from the years away but I will admit that some sketches are definitely not as funny as others. To be honest, I expected things to be a bit more silly with them. Still, there was enough humor to keep me entertained and I’m sure plenty of the old school fans will enjoy it, but if your only exposure is the earlier films, you probably won’t like it as much.
Rating: 4 out of 5