Life of Brian (1979) (R)

Perhaps it was when Eric Idle was asked what the next Monty Python movie would be and he quickly quipped "Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory" that the controversy began. In all fairness, it's a pretty controversial comment. But Idle and fellow Pythons were captivated by the idea of mocking religion with a movie. This brought about one of the biggest comedies of all time, widely considered to hold some of the troupe's funniest moments—"Life of Brian".
In recent years, the reverence for Christ has, to put it mildly, slackened. Take a "Family Guy" episode for example. Jesus is discovered working in a music store. Once famous, he follows the path of many other superstars—fame leading to rehab and the like. To anybody, myself included, who grew up in a religious environment, the lack of respect showed is a little...uncomfortable. Still, it's nice to be able to laugh at yourself, at your own idiosyncrasies, yes, even at your own religion. But the Python gang seems just as keen on making people mad...laughter isn't a necessity, but it does occur.
"Life of Brian" begins like many Christ movies do, with the manager scene. Three wise men travel across the desert, following the star in the sky. Arriving at a manger, they bring in the three gifts and present them to the mother of what they think to be the savior. The lady (played by director Terry Jones) is perplexed at their behavior and makes very brash statements at them, including questioning what 'myrrh' really is. They brush her aside, ask the baby's name—it's Brian...duh—they praise him for a few minutes, then leave.
Brian's mom is left with a handful of goodies which the three wiremen quickly take back as they discover that they've come to the wrong manger scene—Jesus is next door...oops!
Following the odd main titles, accompanied by a "Goldfinger"-ish song, we get a general idea of the rest of the movie by dropping in on the "sermon on the mount". Jesus is diving straight into the beatitudes and far in the back of the crowd there are a few restless characters that are having a hard time hearing all his statements. Racist comments, insults about physique, and a desert bar fight later and we're on the flat open sands, on our way to a stoning.
This stoning, which remains the funniest scene of the movie, has a character being killed for using the Lord's name in vain...the results of the stoning are just hilarious.
Compared to "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", this movie has quite a coherent plot. There are no random quirks. It's probably a dumber movie, but you could argue that it's also funnier.
The cross-dressing, the lisps, the stammering, the nudity, the swearing, the offensiveness, the racism, the songs, the jovial way the film pokes fun at interpretation of scripture, the mocking of zealotry, the mockery of Jesus, the bitterness with which the film ends on a happy note—the film has a lot to offer and a lot more to offend with.
Deemed a sin to see post-release, "Life of Brian" was banned in many countries which only fueled the passion that those who like it have.
It's a funny movie and you rarely expect some of the odd moments that jump out of nowhere.
Is it the funniest movie ever? No, you can feel the hatred towards Christians and Christianity. Though it would like to parade itself as a movie showcasing the idiocy of being religious, instead it just feels a little biased...which it is.
But is it funny? Yes, quite so.

Score: ★★★½

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