This film has been released 23 years after the untimely death (or not, if you look at his lifestyle) of Graham Chapman. The Film is not calling itself A Monty Python film, but a Graham Chapman film, and after watching it you might understand why.
The synopsis: in 1989 Chapman – ‘a freeloading bastard’ (according to John Cleese at his funeral) sadly ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘E’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! – OK enough Parrot Sketch quotes already!! (which he co-wrote with John Cleese)
The bizarre fact about the film is that Chapman actually narrates his own biography on screen 23 years after he selfishly popped his clogs, this being due to that fact that previously undiscovered audio tapes were uncovered. The film itself is a hybrid of many different talents, three directors, 14 different animation companies, as well as the original autobiography being credited to six authors who helped co-write it!
The result, unfortunately and unsurprisingly, is that the collective effort appears fractured and disjointed, the only common thread are the highlights of Chapman’s life narrated by the man himself. Whilst unique anarchic humour and groundbreaking animation were synonymous with The Python Team, the film fails to excite or titillate and unfortunately does not match the higher echelons of humour that the Python team reached.
The most interesting and redeeming feature the film offers is the autobiography itself, where we learn of Chapman’s debauched lifestyle (70% gay – his own calculation) and his openness about his alcoholism. Some of the best animated sequences are the rousing musical numbers Sit On My Face and the hotel room sex scene, where the mother of a woman he picks up in an elevator watches her daughter having sex with Chapman, whilst on the phone and giving him the thumbs up. Some of the sketches are pure Python, but some others just don’s work. Why are the Python team represented by talking monkeys? This overdone sequence just didn’t work on any levels for me personally.
The film itself, like the aforementioned Python movies, often borders on the surreal, with fantasy sequences including phallic shaped spaceships (Very Flesh Gordon) but why use Cameron Diaz to voice Freud? One thing I did notice is that all the Python team are represented and add cameo voiceovers, with the notable exception of Eric Idle. There’s also the odd piece of Python footage thrown in for good measure.
In summary the film makes for a good accompaniment to the autobiography, but it doesn’t really work and often appears chaotic and shambolic – and not in a good way. It’s a bit like a collage showcasing the animators rather than truly paying homage to the talent that was Chapman.
Overall Verdict: The film is certainly not a complete turn off and I feel I have been opened up to the genius and madness of Graham Chapman, and I’m thoroughly glad I watched. The movie should appease the appetite of Python/Chapman fans, but not necessarily stretch beyond the student audience.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater