The Life of Brian was my introduction to the world of Monty Python, though the first time I watched it, while I found it fairly diverting, much of it was probably lost on me as I was a prepubescent teen, and my friends and I had rented it alongside a few other films (on glorious VHS no less) while attempting to stay awake for 36 hours in an ill-advised attempt to raise money for Comic Relief (incidentally, of the four of us who started that particular quest, I was the only one who made it past 24 hours of uninterrupted consciousness but alas, even I fell at the final hurdle, drifting off at somewhere around hour 34).
I can’t remember what else we rented but The Life of Brian stuck with me as being pretty funny, even if, at the time, it was only the more puerile and silly jokes (which to be fair there are no shortage of in the oeuvre of Cleese et al.) that tickled my funny bone.
Years later, and now a fully-fledged fan of the work of the Pythons, I am able to enjoy The Life of Brian on a more cerebral level. Although it is probably the puerile and silly stuff that works the best.
Often accused of being blasphemous, The Life of Brian is nothing of the sort. It may be set during the lifetime of Christ, but there is absolutely nothing within the movie that lampoons or criticizes Christianity at all.
Indeed, it is pretty clear that the eponymous Brian is absolutely in no way to be considered the Messiah. It’s all just a bit of an unfortunate mix-up.
Some of the humour is, even by the ground-breaking standards of Monty Python, a little dated these days (there’s really only so funny a man pretending to be a woman can be and it’s entirely unclear why, even in 1979, anyone thought there was a need for John Cleese to ‘black up’ in one of the opening scenes) but generally a lot of the jokes stand up pretty well and it’s so relentless that if one joke doesn’t make you laugh, the next one probably will.
It’s also the movie that gave us the fantastically catchy Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as well as a plethora of quotable lines, the pick of which is undoubtedly “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”
Score for Christmasishness
Clearly it’s not a Christmas film at all, but the movie does open with the newly born Brian being visited by three wise men bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Brian’s mother is nonplussed with the myrrh although readily accepts all of the gifts, only for the wise men to realise their error, reclaim the offerings and head to the stable next door, where we eventually find out that the actual Nativity scene is unfolding.
Nothing else Christmas(ish) about the film at all, but a Nativity scene more than qualifies it to make the cut for this list.