Monday, August 4, 2014

The Essentials- "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" (1975)

The Essentials-#67

Monty Python and The Holy Grail

If the Monty Python group was good at anything, they were good at realizing what could be done with the comedy and they mixed up everything and flipped it on its face. Usually when somebody decides to make a comedy movie, they usually fall under two different categories; there are the slapstick comedies (think Mel Brooks or the endless Scary Movie parodies) and there are the offbeat comedies (think Wes Anderson). A director usually masters one kind of comedy and not the other. It is very rare for a director to be able to not only master both kinds of comedy, but also blend them together in one movie. The Monty Python group made blending different styles of comedy together look effortless. Not only that, but if you look at “The Meaning of Life,” they actually had something of worth to say with their comedy, which made them stand out in the 1970’s.

I wouldn’t say that “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” doesn’t give any sort of insight into the important; it is just a fun comedy. It is a movie that throws a curveball at everything you ever knew about the Arthurian legends. The Monty Python gang (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Neil Innes), created something that was both slapstick, offbeat and parody that was all rolled into one. Each actor plays several different roles, but the most consistent actor is Graham Chapman, who plays King Arthur. King Arthur is told by God (who is ironically voiced by Chapman), to track down the Holy Grail and bring it to God. King Arthur assembles all of the classic characters for this adventure, including Lancelot, Sir Robin and Sir Bedevere, among others for this gracious task. The bad thing is that they keep separating from each other.

As the film opens, the goofiness begins to unfold. As the main titles hit the screen, there is a fun game going on, and apparently a couple men in charge of the credits are “sacked” due to their inability to roll them correctly. Like I said, the fun begins right from the opening titles and the movie only gets wackier from there. From overly-sexualized witches, to three headed knights, to a black knight that never wants to die, “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” tackles every time of comedy you love and does so with genuine ease. I was also particularly impressed by how the film pokes fun at the notion of living and growing up in the Middle Ages, they are hard laughs, but they are totally effective. The way the movie transitions from scene to scene is half the fun of it, the other half is how the film decides to break the fourth wall over and over and over again.

The performances in the film are all well-handled. I can’t imagine what it would be like for an actor to juggle several characters in one film. Sure, Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler do it in their films all the time, and I am sure they have mastered the art. I am sure that talent came with time. Learning multiple skits on an hour segment of SNL is one thing, carrying on multiple characters in an hour-plus movie is something else. It’s not one actor who is playing multiple roles, the entire cast plays at least three different characters. It is rather remarkable how well the casts manages the characters they have written.

So if you want a good laugh, and you are not in the mood for classic Mel Brooks or Judd Apatow or anybody of the sort, give this group of Brits a try. You’ll be glad you did.

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