Monkey Movie Review – Monty Python (mostly) : One Down, Five to Go (2014)

Summary: A mediocre look at parts of the best of Monty Python, delivered as a live show, but also a reminder of how long ago the glory days of this comedy troupe were.  Still worth checking out and still provides some laughs and entertainment.

The Monkey is a huge Python fan, having grown up with the show (in reruns as it ended in 1972) and having seen nearly all of their movies.  A kind friend of the monkey (an orangutang named Frederick from the Jersey side of the rain forest) loaned this video to said simian, and it sat for nearly a year without being watched.  Please note: I have since returned it, Frederick!! Eeep!

As any Python enthusiast knows, the original group of 6 includes Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Pailin and John Cleese.  Most have found fame outside of Python with movie appearances, directorial opportunities, video and TV shows – so they have never really disappeared – except for Chapman, who died in 1989 (age 48) of cancer.

In this 3-hour live show, that included a 30 minute intermission, the group pays their tribute to Chapman, who was a key part of the group, using archival footage and even a look alike.  This show is billed as the last one the group will ever due as an ensemble, however Cleese and Palin are currently traveling and performing in shows that contain Python skits and references.

I won’t go into the history of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, only to say that the show and movies pushed the boundaries on taboos and stereotypes.   When you watch the old shows and movies, they look rather tame to what’s common today (see Trainwreck) but at the time they were shockingly uncomfortable for viewers.  The movies took this further, mocking American gluttony (exploding American diner in Meaning of Life) and via songs such as “Sit on My Face (And Tell Me You Love Me)” from Monty Python’s Contractually Obligated Album.  Beyond being controversial, the group tended to like lapsing into total silliness, often driving skits into the ground to the point where a Colonel-dressed Chapman would march into the scene unannounced, declare it “much too silly” and urge the show to “move on then to the next skit”.   Currently, Key and Peele use the same technique of taking a rather absurd premise (football players shoving each other before a game to get each other riled up to play) and then taking it to a ridiculous conclusion (two players continue to escalate the violence until one blows the other up using a kidnapped third player as a suicide bomber).  Skits such as those  could actually use a “much too silly” interruption, actually.  But anyway – !

In the video, which includes some extras that depict the production process, rehearsals, a script reading session and such (which are all actually very entertaining), you’ll see such classics as the Dead Parrot sketch (combined with the classic Cheese Shop sketch), an unexpected Spanish Inquisition, Beware the Llama, an Idiot’s Olympics video segment (and other video segments from the original show), Spam and Black Mail.  No surprise that the Lumberjack song is there, along with a number of sing along classics (Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Sit on My Face…), a sketch with the Pope and Da Vinci arguing about the Last Support painting (starts slow but continues to entertain as it becomes more absurd), and even guest appearances by Eddie Izzard and Michael Myers – and Carol Cleveland, who appeared in the original TV series.

Along with the troupe is a cast of broadway dancers/singers that are used for musical tributes effectively,   I read that Robin Williams was supposed to be part of the show as the guest for Black Mail (Myers was used instead) but turned it down due to severe depression.  However the DVD is dedicated to him.

The Monkey would definitely recommend the video for true-Pythoners because there are examples of the excellent comic timing of the group – but not for the uninitiated because the sketches can be rather slow by today’s standards.

But overall the video delivers and is a good depiction of the talent of this group.  Eric Idle, one of my favorites, is ageless and funny, with that singing voice that sounds like one of the Pet Shop Boys.  Palin and Cleese are perfect partners, where even a flub in the lines causes Cleese to giggle a remark to Palin, “eh, what was my line again?” and Palin replies, without a beat and with a sarcastic tone “your line is this parrot is no longer alive'” (I could be misquoting there as I don’t recall the exact line – but it was classic).

On a scale of one Monty to five Pythons, I give it a “get on with it!” – and recommend you check it out!  Eeep!

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