Review by J.T. Johnson
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: August 17, 1979
DIRECTOR: Terry Jones
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Peter Biziou
WRITERS: Monty Python
MUSIC: Geoffrey Burgon
After the release of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in 1975, four years would pass before the legendary comedy troupe made another film. Their next project, however, came with its fair share of controversy for the ‘70s. Their next movie would take a satirical look at religion and this didn’t set well with many financiers and in reality, the Pythons had trouble getting money to make the film in the first place.
Help with the money came from a seemingly unlikely ally. Former Beatle and Python fan George Harrison was also a huge cinephile. When he heard about the Python’s troubles, he established a new production company named HandMade films just to get the movie made. As a way of saying thanks, Harrison can actually be found in the background of the scene featuring the People’s Front of Judea.
As the title suggests, the movie centers around Brian during the time of Jesus Christ. Brian hates the Romans as much as the other people in Judea and wishes to join the People’s Front of Judea, not to be confused with the Judean People’s Front. Eventually, through a series of comical misadventures, Brian becomes recognized as a messiah and must deal with his new following.
I must admit straight away that while this film has more of a structure than “Holy Grail” does, I still prefer that film over “Life of Brian”. There are more moments that stick in my memory from “Holy Grail”. However, that’s not to say that “Brian” is not worthy of the classic status it celebrates today.
The movie was pretty ballsy in the ‘70s for tackling a subject such as religion. This is especially true when considering that the movie’s ultimate message is that you should make up your own mind and be critical of religion instead of just following someone simply because someone else told you to. The message of this movie is still as relevant today as it was back then.
The movie also has its fair share of laughs. Whether it’s the leader of the PFJ being told what the Roman government has done for them or the famous rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, there are plenty of giggles to be found here. Also, I just want to point out that it’s still pretty hard not to chuckle when you hear the name Biggus Dickus.
Now, the movie caused quite the reaction from the religious community back in the day, so I feel like I should acknowledge the religiously sensitive crowd that still exists today. The movie is quick to point out that this is not about Jesus Christ. There’s even a funny scene where the three Wisemen mistakenly visit Brian first before finding Jesus down the street.
The truth of the film is that it takes a more critical look at blind faith. By the end of the movie, it doesn’t tell you not to believe in anything or that religion is crap (though most members of Python are non-believers). Instead, it simply tells you that religion should not be the exception to the rule of critical thinking and I think that is a good message to promote.
For me personally, the movie may not reach the same heights as “Holy Grail”, but the Python’s biting satire of religion still works to this day. It also helps that they also coated the film with their signature style of comedy.