MONTY PYTHON LIVE (MOSTLY) (2014)
Featuring John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Carol Cleveland, John Du Prez, Eddie Izzard, Mike Myers, Warwick Davis, Brian Cox, Stephen Hawking and archival footage of Graham Chapman.
Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin.
Directed by Eric Idol.
Distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment. 162 minutes. Not Rated.
Last year, the five remaining live members of the legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python – John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, as well as their long-time straight woman Carol Cleveland – reunited for their first performances since around 1983.
Back then, they were at the top of the comedy world, releasing their fourth film Monty Python’s Meaning of Life to moderate critical and popular acclaim. While Meaning of Life certainly had its moments, it was a bit of a let down after the group’s previous stunning artistic and popular achievements, the pioneering TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the beloved films Monty Python & the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Before the end of the decade, troupe-member Graham Chapman died of cancer. In the years since, the different members have had long and prosperous careers apart and have periodically even worked together in groups of two or three. But Monty Python as a name and as a troupe was apparently completely in the rear view mirror.
Which is why it was rather surprising that last year, the guys decided to do a series of five live performances at London’s huge O2 Arena, a final loving farewell to the fans (and the guys cheekily teased, a blatant money grab).
Monty Python Live (Mostly) captures one of these shows. The five actors (who gleefully pointed out that they were a combined age of 357) performed some of their best-loved bits with their old co-hort Cleveland and a troupe of young, attractive singers and dancers. Mix in some of Terry Gilliam’s classically surreal animation and some videos of the original skits and voila, they had a show.
I have no doubt it was pretty magical to experience in person, but the video points out that this performance was probably a bit of a mix of wonderful nostalgia and disappointment.
Honestly, none of the skits have necessarily improved upon the many earlier versions of the same material. There are some minor tweaks here and there to make things more timely, but many of the skits and songs are nearly word-for-word recreations of stuff we’ve all seen before. Also, more than a few of the skits are simply video showings of the originals.
Much of the material is brilliant, so the show is never uninteresting. At least, not for us. The guys have done this many times and sometimes it feels a bit like they are going through the motions.
Still, a brief and wonderfully goofy all-new video segment with cameos by genius scientists Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking makes you really wish that the surviving Pythons had taken the time and effort to do some more new material.
Even when they are obviously enjoying themselves – like a few times when Cleese and Palin acknowledge screwing up their lines or losing their place – very little is surprising or different here. And this material was at one point nothing if not different. In fact, the first Monty Python movie, in which many of the same skits were redone from the TV series, was specifically called And Now For Something Completely Different.
Still, these skits are so iconic – “The Spanish Inquisition,” “The Lumberjack Song,” “The Argument Clinic,” “The Ministry of Silly Walks,” “The Dead Parrot,” “The Cheese Shop” and many more – that it is nearly impossible not to crack up many places on this Blu-ray.
Some of the choices are a bit adventurous, not just all of the most obvious bits – though many of those are here too. There is also surprisingly little fromMonty Python & the Holy Grail. And personally I would have cut down on the musical numbers from Meaning of Life, which seem like a way for the guys to let the young kids carry the show while they take a little breather.
We all have obscure favorite skits that we wish made it but didn’t – some of mine would be “Self Defense From Fresh Fruit,” “It’s the Mind: Déjà Vu” and “The Encyclopedia Salesman” – but overall it is a good overview of the Python’s career.
By the time you get to the almost inevitable closing number – yet another version of Life of Brian’s song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” – the show closes down with a warm glow of appreciation for the brilliance of Monty Python. Yeah, much of this has been done better before, but it’s still always quite special.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 11, 2014.