Life Of Brian - DVD Review

'Brian exposed organised religion for the out-of-touch, humourless body that it was (still is?) and did so in a way which made it impossible to ignore'

With Monty Python now just over forty years old, the group seem to have met their Ruby anniversary with joyous welcome, rather than weary trepidation. Having launched their own YouTube channel a couple of years ago, next week will see the release of Not The Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy) on DVD and Blu-ray, a recorded film of a brand new, Eric Idle-fronted oratorio (a story-based concert performance - a bit like an opera with substantially less acting), based on The Life Of Brian. What better time then, to revisit the Python classic which, at thirty years old itself, is no spring chicken.

The first question to be asked in approaching the film that once described itself as 'destined to offend nearly two thirds of the civilised world' is, of course, whether the controversy it generated in the late seventies and early eighties is still warranted today. The short answer is basically yes: the scenes which present religious folk as mindless sheep are still provocative and if the final scene with Idle and Graham Chapham singing 'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' whilst nailed to crosses was any earlier in the film, I suspect the walkout rate would have been even higher.

These kind of scenes however, are what makes Life Of Brian so important. Here is a film willing to ask questions and pose answers which no one else dared to even consider in the eighties and are still perhaps reticent about doing so today. Brian exposed organised religion for the out-of-touch, humourless body that it was (still is?) and did so in a way which made it impossible to ignore. The fact that some of those scenes are still quite shocking, in a day and age where we've seen things like Brass Eye come and go, is absolute testament to the creator's foresight, common sense and cultural knowledge.

Of course, it's also very funny and four scenes in particular ('he's not the Messiah', 'are there any women in the crowd?', 'what have the Romans ever done for us?' and 'welease Woger') have rightly gone down in comedy history. Cleese, Idle, Palin and Jones are all fantastic comedy actors and Chapman's straight play as Brian enables more of the laughs than many observers give him credit for.

Even on DVD and Blu-ray though, the film's glaring technical problems are a distraction. Part of the attraction of the film is its low budget feel but low budget and low production values are two different things with bad lighting and questionable cinematography being two low-lights.

Ending on a negative when discussing Life Of Brian though really isn't playing fair because this is one of those rare films that rewards repeat viewings: a comedy which challenges and provokes debate, rather than merely adding a few flippant jokes. Thirty years on, it still does all of that and many a pretender to Python's comedy throne could learn a lot from spending two hours in Brian's company.

Look further...

'Life of Brian contains single moments and ideas that equal the brilliance and success of Holy Grail, but sadly, its plot about a man born the same day as Jesus who ends up living a sort of parallel life stifles the anarchy and the chaotic energy on which Monty Python thrives' - Brian's Film Review Blog, 3.5/5


  1. Great review of a near-classic! Later down the road when we get deeper into the comedy tournament, I will link to this review if the movie makes it :)

  2. Thanks Castor! Very much enjoying the comedy tournament, great structure to it.

  3. I fear on some level I missed a lot of the humor on this one. It was one of those weird cases where I laughed more thinking back on the film than during watching it. Though the final scene is just priceless.

  4. I think it's very easy to have that reaction to Python and Brian in particular. Most of their humour I find is more comparable to sitcoms or standups than more typical feature-length comedy and therefore, some of the jokes don't have obvious punchlines (the 'what have the romans ever done for us?' scene for example).

  5. Nice review, as usual. I love the scene in which the John Cleese character is attempting to rally some troops ('What have the Romans ever done for us?')but they keep coming up with really honest and practical comments as to how living under Roman rule is pretty sweet.

  6. Yes, that scene is awesome - just one of many that really start to get under the skin of accepted thinking about that time (rightly or wrongly!). I think my personal favourite is 'are there any women in the crowd?' but there's so many to choose from!