Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (HD-DVD)

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The mysteries of life are always around us, but no one has the answers to these cosmic questions. Until now, as Monty Python has released a motion picture that answers all of your questions, plus ones you’d never even thought of. In The Meaning of Life, you will be guided through the entire cycle of life, from birth through childhood to adulthood, then old age and finally, the inescapable embrace of death. But the journey doesn’t end when the casket closes, as this movie takes us beyond the mortal coil and gives us a glimpse into what awaits in the afterlife. All of this is explained through animations, fish with important thoughts, drill sergeants, nuns, musical numbers, doctors with cutting edge equipment, a unique organ donor program, and so much more. So get set to take a trip and have all of your questions answers, as this is The Meaning of Life.

If you want to talk about genius in the world of comedy, no conversation would be complete with a lot of time spent on Monty Python. With an incredible television series in Monty Python’s Flying Circus and movie classics like Monty Python and The Holy Grail, the troupe built quite a legacy of laughs. On the lesser end of their work is Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, but is a lesser work of genius still on a higher level than most? The Meaning of Life, unlike Life of Brian and The Holy Grail, is episodic in nature and out of the three films, the most similar to the original television series. Not as consistent however, as some sketches disappoint, but most of the material is good, some even great. The group does seem to go for the visceral a little more than usual, but this is Monty Python, so you have to expect some offensive moments. The movie is inconsistent, but still very humorous and at times hilarious. This new high definition version offers a minor improvement over the standard version, but not enough to make an upgrade essential. But if you do choose to move up, this HD-DVD retains all the supplements. I just think consumers will expect more than minor upgrades, when it comes to this new platform.

Video: How does it look?

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As much as we’d love for every movie to look brand new on HD-DVD, that simply won’t be the case. The movie looks good here, by standard DVD scales, but for HD-DVD, this is a disappointment. As before, the print has a lot of grain and debris, which impacts the visuals and in the case of the grain, softens the image. I think with a restoration, a new transfer could open some eyes, but as it stands, this is a minor improvement over the DVD and that isn’t what we want

Audio: How does it sound?

A new Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack is here, but the audio doesn’t have much more presence than before. This isn’t a problem in most instances, but the audio is thin at times. So a little work could have beefed up the elements and made for a more effective track, but I doubt we’ll see that happen in this case. The music in particular could use a boost, but since dialogue is solid, I doubt many fans will complain that much. This disc also includes a French language track, as well as subtitles in English and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

On deck for the audio commentary are Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, but aside from a few offhand remarks, Gilliam runs this session. Jones tends to laugh and narrate, whereas Gilliam sheds light on production details and tries to offer fans an inside peek at what went on behind the scenes. Not as good as you’d expect from the Python crew, but a solid track and one that fans will want to give a listen to. The behind the scenes featurette offers interviews with the five surviving Python members, who talk about not only this movie, but their entire resume of work. Graham Chapman is represented through archival interviews, so you get a nice overall look into the group’s efforts. The soundtrack for the lonely is a useless inclusion, but the deleted scenes and alternate versions of the musical numbers are well worth a look. This disc also includes an extended trip to the fish tank, educational tips, a look at the dance numbers, television spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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