Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Blu-ray offers solid video and great audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
The Monty Python group examines the meaning and purpose of life in a series of sketches from conception to death and beyond. In typical Monty Python fashion they satirizes almost everyone.
For more about Monty Python's The Meaning of Life and the Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Blu-ray release, see Monty Python's The Meaning of Life Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on November 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
After the success of narrative-driven films such as "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Life of Brian," it seems regressive for the lauded comedy group (including Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, John Cleese, and Terry Gilliam) to return to their sketch-show origin with "The Meaning of Life." Building momentum with fantastic adventures through history and religion, Monty Python's 1983 endeavor has a noticeable lack of energy and almost no cohesion about it, stumbling around big ideas on life and death with all the concentration of a group on the brink of going their separate ways. It's a hit-or-miss effort that features all the hallmarks of the team's work, offering rich design elements, puckered animation, gross-outs, and crack comic timing. Despite its obvious shortcomings, "The Meaning of Life" also happens to be devastatingly funny at times, hitting a few beats of silliness with traditional Python precision -- terrifically loony moments that manage to salvage the entire viewing experience.
Of course, Python tomfoolery doesn't immediately commence. "The Meaning of Life" actually opens with a short from Terry Gilliam, "The Crimson Permanent Assurance," a takeoff of workday drudgery colliding with pirate swashbuckling, tilted on its side by Gilliam's boundless imagination for screen bedlam. Featuring intricate sets, miniatures, and a constant presence of noise, "Assurance" is a striking bit of short film experimentation from a helmer who's incapable of controlling himself. It's amusing and imaginative for five minutes, yet the effort drags on for another ten, growing assaultive as it becomes clear Gilliam has no idea how to end the movie. On a technical level, it's masterful, a warm-up jog for the filmmaker before his career-crunching time with "Brazil," but it's a taxing icebreaker that washes out the Python magic, bludgeoning the viewer before subtle, silly comedy is introduced.
Once out of Gilliam's control, "The Meaning of Life" finds its footing with recognizable Python humor, introducing the film with chapters that detail the human experience, from birth to death, each skit tied into the titular search for cosmic answers. In truth, there's really no direction to the feature, which initially hints at a structure, only to chase whims with abandon, bombing around history and the afterlife on the prowl for bellylaughs. Cutting their teeth on sketch comedy, the return to familiar techniques proves to be a confusing situation for the troupe, with the quality of the bits failing to find an energetic consistency that television provided, making the picture appear labored as it works its way through the stages of life. Again, after reaching glory with "Holy Grail" and "Life of Brian," "The Meaning of Life" is anticlimactic, an easy lay-up before retirement, yet, oddly, it's not a failure, with certain vignettes capturing a sense of inspired insanity that recalls the early work of the group, making smart use of individual gifts and a collective sense of humor that leans blissfully towards the absurd.
There are pleasures scattered throughout the work. "The Miracle of Birth" and its machine that goes "ping!" is a winning opener, satirizing impersonal hospital procedures and mechanical overcompensation. "Fighting Each Other" provides Palin with an exquisite opportunity to play daft and deafening as a military commander surprisingly willing to allow his men to skip a day of marching up and down the square. In "Death," the sight of Chapman being chased by a team of ten topless women is quite impressive, offering an askew take on capital punishment. And no description of the film's merits can leave out the miracle of Mr. Creosote (Jones), a frighteningly obese man prone to fits of vomiting, enjoying his final meal in a posh French restaurant before exploding in front of horrified diners and an unflappable maitre d' (Cleese). It's heroically foul work, and you'll never look at a wafer-thin mint the same way again. Duds include an Anglo-Zulu War segment from the "Fighting Each Other" chapter, which takes an unfunny concept (a British officer finds his leg has been bitten off, forcing the squad to find the animal responsible, coming across two men in a tiger suit) to intolerable lengths, and a reoccurring bit that has the boys dressed up as fish floating around an aquarium, conversing and commentating. It's an idea that's bizarrely bereft of even the simplest of jokes -- just a visual gag with no payoff.
Jazzing up the film are musical numbers, playing around with the group's love of songwriting, preferring mischievous ones peppered with lewd lyrics. The soundtrack for "The Meaning of Life" is teeming with gems, including the Vegas number "Christmas in Heaven" and the classic anthem, "Every Sperm Is Sacred," a memorable tune sold with a sophisticated set piece from director Jones, turning the cheeky composition into a deleted scene from "Oliver!"
The VC-1 encoded image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) does feature some mild filtering, with slight ringing and a small amount of motion blur detected. Fine detail is acceptable if never remarkable, with facial particulars offering a slightly waxy appearance, though the HD viewing experience does benefit from a sharper look at production design accomplishments and make-up work. Colors reveal limited fade, with healthy reds and blues bringing costuming to life, while animation also carries snappy hues. Skintones are acceptable, communicating changes in health and location cleanly. Blacks are stable but far from rich, solidifying on occasion, though distances are available for study. Print displays some white speckling. The viewing experience is acceptable, supporting the limited scope of the picture, but there's no sparkling remaster here to truly push out the textures of the work.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix clings to the front stage for the most part, with a slightly uneven balance of scoring and dialogue exchanges, which register a tad soft for such a mighty comedic endeavor, requiring a little extra juice for the center channel. Musical numbers are where the track really shines, with a full, lush presentation of singing and instrumentation, offering a pleasing low-end to ground the spectacle. Surrounds are engaged for circular music reach, showing true isolation during the "Find a Fish" segment, where audience participation elements offer separation. Comedy interests are never muffled, with crisp articulation.
"The Meaning of Monty Python: 30th Anniversary Reunion" (60:15, HD) sits down with John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and Eric Idle (appearing via videoconferencing) for a discussion of "The Meaning of Life" and the very nature of comedy. It's a shapeless conversation but highly amusing, with the troupe in good spirits as they dissect the scripting process, debating quality of skits and lamenting ideas that were lost. The chat doesn't linger on the movie, evolving into politics, Python history, the vagaries of good taste, comedy philosophy, and aging. It's a treat to see the men back together, bantering with ease, enjoying one another's jokes, with Cleese truly charged up by the company. Perhaps the randomness of the talk will upset fans, but the electricity in the room is undeniable.
Ported over the 2003 DVD release:
Commentary with Gilliam and Jones (recorded separately, but smoothly edited together) is a little on the sluggish side, with participants struggling to cough up anecdotes and observations as the film unfolds. Play-by-play is common, as are dead spots. When the men find something to talk about, the track imparts an understanding of the Python creative process and assessment of the work. However, those highlights are few and far between.
"Soundtrack for the Lonely" is an audio track intended to provide some company for the viewer, with a restless man (Palin) drinking, farting, calling friends, and commentating on the film as it plays.
"2003 Prologue from Eric Idle" (1:17, SD) presents a lewd poem used to sell the film to Universal Pictures.
"The Snipped Bits" (18:22, SD) collect random scenes of tomfoolery excised from the film, including "The Adventures of Marin Luther," extended vacation and restaurant time with The Hendys, a slapstick arrival sequence for Mr. Creosote, and more traveling footage with Gaston as he walks the audience to his childhood home. A few of the scenes are presented with commentary by Jones, which cannot be turned off.
"The Meaning of the Making of 'The Meaning of Life'" (49:02, SD) is a 2003 overview of the creative process, using interviews with Jones, Gilliam, Palin, Cleese, and Idle to illuminate the interpersonal struggles and production challenges that faced the troupe as they stormed into their third feature. There are anecdotes galore, candor, and laughs, exploring a uniquely unharmonious chapter in the career of Monty Python.
"Education Tips" (6:00, SD) visits two fictional schools where lessons on sex and business are part of the curriculum. Basically, it's a chance for Palin and Cleese to mess around with broad characters.
"Un Film de John Cleese" (1:31, SD) is a reedit of the "Meaning of Life" trailer featuring nothing but shots of the actor.
"Remastering a Masterpiece" (8:21, SD) is a tongue-in-cheek look at the reconstruction of "Meaning of Life," with Jones and Gilliam working to clean the elements in a comical fashion.
"Song and Dance" (11:32, SD) dissects the musicals numbers "Every Sperm is Sacred" and "Christmas in Heaven" with Terry Jones and choreographer Arlene Phillips, with special input from actress Jane Leeves, who appeared in the picture as a background dancer.
"Songs Unsung" (9:16, SD) present "Every Sperm is Sacred" (Eric Idle version), "It's The Meaning of Life" (Terry Jones version), and "Christmas in Heaven" (Idle version).
"Selling 'The Meaning of Life'" includes a Trailer (2:41, SD), T.V. Spots (1:03, SD), U.S. Promotion (2:03, SD), Rejects (:59, SD), U.K. Radio (2:19, SD), and Telepathy (2:27, SD).
"Virtual Reunion" (3:09, SD) summons the miracle of chroma key compositing to reunite the band. Intentional awkwardness ensues.
"What Fish Think" (16:05, SD) is a static shot of an aquarium, with Python members providing comical voiceover to communicate the inner thoughts of the inhabitants.
Riffing on religion, sex education, Heaven, dreams, punishment, war, and wonder, "The Meaning of Life" strives to make sense of humanity's struggle with a sense of humor. It's not Monty Python's finest hour, but it's a comfortable endeavor with some charming design achievements and the occasional blast of uproarious behavior. Just the opportunity to spend time with this viciously gifted cast is more than enough to provide entertainment value, even in a film that doesn't meet their traditional standards of excellence.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: Other Editions
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In celebration of the film's 30th anniversary, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray debut of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, which stars John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and the late Graham Chapman. ...
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