Picks and Pans Review: The Meaning of Life

updated 04/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Monty Python's latest film opens with a "short feature": A cadaverous group of insurance clerks mutiny against their bosses, convert their office building into a pirate ship, and sail off to pillage Wall Street, firing file cabinet drawers like cannon-balls. It's an example of the inventiveness that has characterized the BBC comedy team in its TV series and movies. Unfortunately, the rest of the film rarely matches its beginning. There are a few moments when bad taste is raised to high comic art. Best is an early sketch in which working-class Catholic papa Michael Palin comes home to his pregnant wife and brood of perhaps a hundred children to lead them in an anti-birth-control hymn, Every Sperm Is Sacred. But too many of the sketches drag on interminably or harp repetitively on the British stiff-upper-lip theme. For instance, a group of soldiers in a trench celebrate their commanding officer's birthday as bombs explode around them. Two particularly repulsive scenes involve a forced liver transplant from a live, screaming "donor" and an 800-pound human monstrosity who for 10 minutes spurts streams of vomit all over the clientele of a fancy French restaurant. Despite some inspired turns from Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle and Graham Chapman, viewers of The Meaning of Life will be more apt to double over in disgust than in laughter. (R)

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