MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Comedy/ Stars: Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Connie Booth, Carol Cleveland, Neil Innes, Bee Duffell, John Young, Rita Davies, Avril Stewart, Sally Kinghorn, Sandy Johnson, Julian Doyle/ Runtime: 92 minutes
I feel that it is no closely guarded secret to let you in on dear reader that humor is perhaps the most personal out of all the emotions on the chart which would then by default mean that movies which are comedies are most likely the most personalized films you could hope to make. Yet with that being said, it should also be pointed out that there are a select few entries in this genre that magically are able to overcome that subjectivity that humor is saddled with and actually amuse and enchant audiences with a funny bone of literally any size right down to the least tolerant and bullheaded of movie lovers who refuse to laugh at nearly anything unless it fits their very narrow set of specifications. I bring this up because I feel that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of those universal comedies. Heck even those who know little to nothing about it, movies, or just who vehemently refuse to watch any movie made before 1998 know of such things as “The Knights who say ‘Ni’,” “it’s just a flesh wound!,” and some of the more delightfully odd sketches and bits of dialogue from this film. Plus this isn’t even beginning to cover the fact that those who are usually the biggest curmudgeons on the planet may even find something funny in this film. An accomplishment that is possible I feel you should know not because this movie is simply funny, but rather because it is absolutely bonkers and absurd in all the best ways.
Indeed with this film, the cast and crew have managed to prove that if done right and masterfully, the absurd truly can be comic platinum. I say that because this talented group of performers has managed to find the perfect balance between absurdity when functioning with the narrative and absurdity there just for spits and giggles. Yet even when this film, as it is quite prone to doing, decides to go off on quite a few distinct tangents that in all honesty have next to nothing to do with the overall narrative, it still fits together beautifully. A fact that is possible not just because the film generally has the same look through and through, but also because the cast of characters, the dialogue being said, and the situations going on have all been precisely put together to create the best amount of comedy that is equal parts head-tilting and yet also bust-a-gut worthy. Suffice it to say that this is a movie them which manages to work on an inspired sense of rhythm as well as a brilliant feeling of having no purpose whatsoever thus giving every single delightfully nonsensical ingredient a chance to shine at its fullest to the point that this is proof of genuine movie magic at work. A magic that honestly needs more of a presence in the world around us than truly ever before.
The plot is as follows: The place is a country that will come to be known as England, the year is 932 A.D, and it truly is an era of despair and demise, and of feeling downtrodden and sick due to the plague. Into this cold, dark, and mysterious world we are quickly introduced to none other than the legend that is King Arthur as he is in the midst of an adventure throughout the English countryside on a, nonexistent horse with his sole aide Patsy along for the “ride”. His mission, we soon learn, is to acquire the services of several other knights who would be interested in filling out his round table and together ushering the country into a new age. Fortunately we see that, despite several comical mishaps along the way, Arthur is successful in his journey as he is soon able to recruit the “knowledgeable” Sir Bedevere, the brave (though quite overzealous) Sir Lancelot, the chaste Sir Galahad, the cowardly and teased by his own minstrels for it Sir Robin, and the most famous of them all: Sir Not Appearing in the Film, a knight who was truly the youngest, bravest, smartest, and most chaste of all the knights, but alas, he was also left behind in the cutting room. Thus with his squad put together, Arthur and his knights decide to ride to….well you see it’s not entirely clear where they are going and what they are going to do since they have made the decision that perhaps Camelot is a bit too ridiculous for them. Thankfully their wandering is quickly put to an end when God decides to assign them the task of discovering the infamous artifact known as…..the Holy Grail (insert church choir music here). Thus even though they might not know just how to spell let alone say “Jehovah” in Latin (a tad ironic since everyone in the film seems to know darn near everything), they set out at first as a group and then on their lonesomes in pursuit of this mystical artifact. Yet whilst doing so, our intrepid heroes shall see their paths cross with virtually everything from a sassy three-headed giant, a locked-away young man who wants everything to be a musical number almost as much as he wants to be taken away from his imprisonment in a castle tower, a group of locked-away teen girls with a particular…..fascination let’s call it for knights or just men in general, a killer rabbit that literally will eat your face off all the way to infamous and fearsome other knights who say “ni” and who will ruthlessly request no more and no less than a shrubbery for you to make haste through their territory…..
Now from the moment the opening credits, which are followed by ever-more absurd subtitles in some kind of fake Scandinavian/English mix writing format, appear on the screen, it is worth noting that Monty Python and the Holy Grail makes it crystal clear that its goal is to be as goofy as is possible from a British comic standpoint. To that end, it should be noted that although this whole film from beginning to end is no more than just a set of completely absurd misadventures of the kind that are centuries old, the filmmakers have decided to throw us a curveball and mix into this narrative set in the Middle Ages, a significant amount of present day views, dialogue, and breaking of the fourth wall which all conclude in a truly gut-busting farce of a conclusion that manages to throw the entire film off balance despite being hinted at several times throughout. In fact I will even go so far as to say that this just might be the top film to never ever take things seriously once. Indeed it is a true champion for not just bonkers and off-the-beaten-track level entertainment, but also for iconic one-liners, immensely hilarious situations, and a truly remarkable cast of characters.
Indeed, I will go on the record right now and say that besides perhaps The Naked Gun films and Airplane from 1980, this is one of the few films out there that is able to turn complete and total nonsense into comedy gold. For example: this movie doesn’t have horses because the budget won’t be able to afford them? Heck that’s not an issue we’ll just have a regal King Arthur who is satisfied with simply galloping on his feet while a lackey follows behind him clanking a pair of coconuts together in order to give off the impression of a horse that is trotting. An idea that, naturally, soon leads to a hilariously over-the-top back and forth about just how in the heck coconuts are there since this is supposedly England in the 10th century It also worth pointing out that this is a film which manages to also give audiences quite a few moments made up of intellectual discussions about both science and politics that, despite today’s academics not really making much sense of it, are somehow easily understood by both mud-drenched peasants and completely out of nowhere foot soldiers. Yet even the intellectualism of the film is lampooned for laughs especially when we see a moment where a woman is found to be a witch through leading questions and a pair of guards in a castle try to completely over analyze the very idea of guard duty. This of course leads to the moments that just, in all honesty, make zero sense whatsoever with such delightful examples including the fact that our heroes are literally asked to take down a tree with a dead herring and the movie, with less than ten minutes left, decides this is the perfect time for….intermission (yay!!). Yet even with these comically absurd moments at play, the film is still able to go across all different types of comedy with an incredible degree of enthusiasm, comedic knowledge, and just pure unreal coherence. Yet no matter how “out there” this movie’s material winds up heading, it still manages to function brilliantly in the greater scheme of things to the point that the movie going audience finds itself actually willing to lovingly embrace darn near everything the movie hurls at them.
Now although Monty Python and the Holy Grail manages to show that it is both extremely engaging and limitless in its hilarity, it is also worth noting that from the technical side of things this is also a very terrifically put-together film. Indeed the work done by film helmers Terry Gilliam’s and Terry Jones is remarkably straightforward with only the occasional shot that may be more “artistic” than “necessary”, but otherwise the camera is set in such a way that it manages to serve the comedic elements to the best of its ability instead of trying to showcase a flair for the technical. The work from the costume department is also terrific since they manage to make the costumes both nice to look at, but also convincing for the time period be it the more royal and vibrant attire the knights and Arthur wear or the muddy, filthy, and often ripped attire worn by the peasant characters. The theme music for the film is also wonderful in how it manages to be the most brilliant mix of noble, exciting, and tongue-in-cheek possible. Yet even with all of those other terrific elements at play for this film, it is truly the iconic cast that really helps to make this film a true comedy masterpiece. Indeed every single performance in this film is truly spot-on be it those of the main cast who all play several different parts apiece or those of the many secondary roles to be found including a historian who is quickly murdered whilst discussing the events occurring in the movie as if in a historical documentary. Indeed this is one cast that is not simply playing these particular roles; rather they are, be it by wearing chain mail and claiming that God has given them this quest, or rolling about in the muck and mocking the knights and noble king passing by, becoming these characters through and through. Finally it should also be noted that if there is even a complaint to be found with this film, it would be that it simply isn’t long enough, but thankfully that’s why God created the rewind feature so we can within seconds watch it all over again.
All in all I really do not think there is much more that I need to really say about this film. I say this because at the end of the day, Monty Python and the Holy Grail really truly is and always will be one of the finest comedies ever made. Indeed here is a film which is consistently comedic gold and is even daring enough to manage to reach out and accept all kinds of humor rather than just have a single kind running throughout. Yet astonishingly all the different types actually manage to work together quite well in the finished product be it subtle comedy or the most ridiculous, off-the-wall, bonkers, and just plain over-the-top comedy imaginable. Plus when you have a cast this phenomenal and virtually every moment in this film is just as memorable as the one that preceded it, what you are left with is the finest kind of comedic, to say nothing of general movie, magic available. Now get on with it and go get yourself a copy today!! On a scale of 1-5 I give Monty Python and the Holy Grail “75” a solid 4.5 out of 5.