Film Review: Monty Python Live (Mostly)

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 5 August 2014.

Last month, legendary comedy troupe Monty Python performed 10 sold out performances at London’s O2 Arena. With the first show selling out in 45 seconds, tickets for Monty Python Live (Mostly) were extremely hard to come by. Luckily for the majority of the planet, the final performance was recorded and will premiere in Australian cinemas this week.

Bringing together John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones for the first time in 30 years (Graham Chapman checked out in 1989 but appears in video sequences), the live show consists of a selection of classic Python sketches and songs, with some added modern references and new song verses.

For dedicated fans, this is a hilarious greatest hits compilation and a fantastic way to become reacquainted with the now much older Pythons, none of whom appear to be slowing down, at least on stage anyway. Newcomers might be tested by the lengthy run time (2 hours and 40 minutes, including a 20 minute interval) and wonder what the fuss is all about.

Monty Python Live (Mostly) is just one of a growing array of special events coming to cinemas. Audiences now have access to opera (New York’s Met Opera), theatre (Driving Miss Daisy with Angela Lansbury), television milestones (Doctor Who: Deep Breath – the debut of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor) and live performances (Andre Rieu Cleans Out His Sock Drawer). Although I’m for anything that draws more people into the cinema, recorded live performances suffer from an audience disconnect and the Monty Python reunion is no different.

Although the camera angles offer cinema audiences undeniably the best seat in the house, there is no substitute for live atmosphere. The video sequences, some new, some old, designed to give the cast time to change between sketches, drag. The etiquette of cinema-going frowns upon participating in the many sing-a-longs featured in the show, although I couldn’t resist the finale, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. Sorry if you were sitting near me.

The Dead Parrot, Argument Clinic, Four Yorkshiremen and Nudge Nudge are just a few of the classic sketches recreated on stage. A full orchestra accompanies the Pythons in such iconic ditties as Every Sperm is Sacred, The Lumberjack Song and I Like Chinese. A two storey stage, rolling sets and an all singing and dancing ensemble bring a big Broadway musical feel to the proceedings.

Monty Python Live (Mostly) features many celebrity cameos from the likes of Eddie Izzard and Mike Myers, as well as a surprising appearance from Professor Brian Cox and the legendary Professor Stephen Hawking in the Galaxy Song. The show also features Carol Cleveland, the only female (unofficial) member of the troupe.

Barring retirement funds needing another top-up, this is likely to be the last time to see Cleese, Gilliam, Idle, Jones and Palin share the same stage. For fans of classic British comedy, this is a must-see (but take a packed lunch and a cushion). For newbies, a marathon of classic Python movies before the concert film is recommended.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:42  Leave a Comment  
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