This was going to be an Easter treat, but then I thought, I didn’t just go to repeated viewings back in the day, I bought the script and i played the soundtrack album (remember them?) incessantly. What’s the point in going to something that you can pretty much recite from beginning to end?
Fast forward to a Wednesday evening with nothing better to do and the thought that i probably haven’t actually seen the film for over 30 years. How does it hold up?
In the main, surprisingly well, though comedies don’t work quite the same way when you’re already anticipating the punchline. So any criticisms are in no way attempting to put off anyone who hasn’t seen it an unreasonable number of times already.
But there are some criticisms. Let’s start with the obvious. This film would not do very well in the Bechtel test. And a surprisingly high amount of the comedy is punching down. You can just about get away with a joke about a speech impediment if you have a good punchline. Giving a number of other characters speech defects “because its funny” is somewhat less defensible. I’m also less partial than most to an overdose of John cleese, and there’s rather a lot of him here.
The main reaction, though, is what was all the fuss about? This was a film that was banned in many cities, got an X certificate in others and even in cosmopolitan Bradford got a AA. And yet the “satire” is smothered on with a trowel. Laughing at those funny Christians who are incapable of independent thought looks more smug than anything else now, but this was considered to be genuinely dangerous 40 years ago.
There are some palpable hits though. The revolutionary sect asking for a proposer and seconder for a motion on immediate action raised wry (and fairly recent) memories, and while a disproportionate number of python jokes are either reworkings of the four yorkshiremen sketch or Eric idle being a cheeky chappie, this doesn’t mean they’re not funny. An I always find terry Jones in a dress funnier than i really should.
Mainly worth it for the memories, but they were good memories