Monty Python delivers the group's sharpest and smartest satire of both religion and Hollywood's epic films. Set in 33 A.D. Judea where the exasperated Romans try to impose order, it is a time of chaos and change with no shortage of messiahs and followers willing to believe them. At it's center is Brian Cohen, born in Bethlehem in a stable next door, who, by a series of absurd circumstances is caught up in the new religion and reluctantly mistake for the promised messiah, providing ample opportunity for the entire ensemble (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) to shine in multiple roles as they question everyone and everything from ex-lepers, Pontius Pilate and haggling to revolutionaries, crazy prophets, religious fanaticism, Roman centurions and crucifixion, forever changing our biblical view.
"Blessed are the cheesemakers," a wise man once said. Or maybe not. But the point is Monty Python's Life of Brian is a religious satire that does not target specific religions or religious leaders (like, say, Jesus of Nazareth). Instead, it pokes fun at the mindless and fanatical among their followers--it's an attack on religious zealotry and hypocrisy--things that that fellow from Nazareth didn't particularly care for either. Nevertheless, at the time of its release in 1979, those who hadn't seen it considered it to be quite "controversial." Life of Brian, you see, is about a chap named Brian (Graham Chapman) born December 25 in a hovel not far from a soon-to-be-famous Bethlehem manger. Brian is mistaken for the messiah and therefore manipulated, abused, and exploited by various religious and political factions. And it's really, really funny. Particularly memorable bits include the brassy Shirley Bassey/James Bond-like title song; the bitter rivalry between the anti-Roman resistance groups, the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea; Michael Palin's turn as a lisping, risible Pontius Pilate; Brian urging a throng of false-idol worshippers to think for themselves--to which they reply en masse "Yes, we must think for ourselves!"; the fact that everything Brian does, including losing his sandal in an attempt to flee these wackos, is interpreted as "a sign." Life of Brian is not only one of Monty Python's funniest achievements, it's also the group's sharpest and smartest sustained satire. Blessed are the Pythons. --Jim Emerso