Taking their final bow as a team with this being their final collaborative film project, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life finally hit cinema theaters back in 1983. Dispensing with the the more conventional narrative that they utilized with their previous two movies, they opted for the sketch format that they had become most renowned for with their classic TV series. Given the foreseeable hysteria that had met them with the controversy surrounding their magnum opus, Life of Brian; it might have felt like something of a relief that their last offering was not met with same outraged devour. That's not say there Isn't anything contentious or potentially offensive however as they up the bad taste and vulgarity factor to inspired effect. From challenging Roman Catholic Dogma with their elaborate, showstopping Every Sperm is Sacred musical routine to John Cleese playing a public schoolmaster teaching sexual education to is pupils by having sexual intercourse with his wife in front of them; it has moments of perverse brilliance. Team member Michael Palin himself noted that that it's increased budget of $9 million meant they could afford to be more "daring and dark".
Accompanied by Terry Gilliam's short film, The Crimsons Permanent Assurance, a typically surreal prelude to what's to come. Showcasing his aesthetically distinctive style that show was utilized to greater prominence with his first solo directorial work; Time Bandits, and later with 1985's; Brazil. Concerning a group of elderly office clerks who work in a a small accounting firm, they figuratively throw off the shackles of their employment by rebelling against their corporate bosses. Becoming pirates they turn their office building in to one big ship, and pillage financial areas. Gilliam's short would be amusingly woven in to the fabric of the subsequent film due to a interruption, and a voice over apologizing for it "due to an attack by the supporting feature."
Director Terry Jones who took sole directorial duties as he did with Life of Brian does a bang up job, and the film does have something of an overall more polished feel than the last two films, largely due to it's larger budget. He still never the less displays his considerable prowess and no more so in the aforementioned musical number. However further musical moments that include Eric Idle's quirky and colourful rendition of The Galaxy Song, which examines the humbling nature of the vastness of the Universe and our relative insignificance is truly inspired. It is complimented by visually magnificent high-tech computer generated sequence, that while dated now would have impressed movie-going audience back then.
Arguably most memorable however and for it's vomit inducing bad taste is the sketch entitled "The Autumn of Our Years", which introduces the glutinous and grotesquely overweight Mr. Creosote as portrayed by Jones. A vile, repulsive character who disgustingly stuffs his face in a restaurant (where he is served by John Cleese's caricatured french waiter) to such an extreme that it culminates with a memorable gross out punchline of eye-popping proportions. Amusingly when the The Meaning of Life won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, he joked that it might have been because Orson Welles, who was on the judging panel, identified with Mr. Creosote.
Where it fails to completely hang together as a cohesive whole is it suffers although not frequently from self indulgence. It's at times strange for the sake of being strange to some degree, and while it does work at times it results in a scene involving two insanely bizarre characters played by Jones and fellow team member, Graham Chapman in a segment called "Find the Fish". Also the sketch format, which worked well for myself personally as an enthusiastic Python fan would not had the same appeal for a general mainstream audience. With the film just taking under $15 million at the box office as opposed to Life of Brian's $20 million that strikes me as likely being the case. And given that one member of the team stated that the main theme and concept of the film was so they could weave together a series of unrelated sketches, you feel as if they weren't quite as committed to their endeavour and the impetus behind the movie was a shallow attempt to profit off of their success.
Even so, looking at the end product as it stands, they still invested much creative effort even if it doesn't quite reaching the dizzying heights their first two proper movies. (And Now For Something Completely Different was nothing more than a collection of their sketches from the TV series which were re-shot for American film audiences in an attempt to introduce their brand of comedy to the U.S. market) Inventive and more polished due to less financial constraints which still doesn't guarantee high quality, it's an outing that I still enjoy revisiting when I get the chance, and still gains a stamp of approval from dedicated fans