Monty Python Returns: One Down, Five To Go

by Curtis Jones

montypythondvd_300It goes without saying that Monty Python is one of the greatest comedy acts in the world.  Even if you don't quite get their humor, their irreverent and disestablishment comedy have permeated pop culture and survived for over forty years now. With the death of Graham Chapman in 1989, the troupe seemed to be finished. John Cleese had opted out of doing a sequel to Holy Grail before Chapman's death, and with the exception of the odd reunion here and there, there has been no full comedic production from the group since 1983’s The Meaning Of Life.  

Until July 2014. The group pulled together to do one show at the O2 Arena in London.  Tickets sold out in less than one minute and the show was an unbelievable stage extravaganza. Fortunately for most of the world who did not grab tickets in the first 43 seconds that they were available (or weren't able to attend the ten shows they decided to do at the O2 after the success of the first), we have the whole final show of that run on DVD as Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down Five To Go released in time for the holiday shopping season.  

The show is a full stage production, with a heavy dose of Broadway style musical styles, full orchestral accompaniment, and chorus line choreography. This isn't simply one sketch after another with videos sprinkled in between as one may recall from 1980’s Live At The Hollywood Bowl. Eric Idle is clearly the creative mastermind behind the musical arrangements. His songs are impressively done, showing off the fact that he is a funny sketch comic but also an outstanding songwriter as well. 

The classic sketches that they perform actually seem better now that the members are older. "Four Yorkshiremen" certainly comes across even better now that the four of them are actually old men, which is similarly the case with "Michelangelo And The Pope." John Cleese as an old man comes off as a great Pope. "Chartered Accountant" is well performed at a good clip with great comedic timing. And this sketch dovetails cleanly into the "Lumberjack Song" and the "Parrot Sketch" segues cleanly into the "Cheese Shop." Sprinkled in between sketches are some classic videos such as the "Fish Slapping Dance," "The Townswomen’s Reenactment Of Pearl Harbor,"  "Munich Olympics," and more, not to mention some classic Terry Gilliam animation. 

A couple of celebrities are included for fun. Mike Myers makes an appearance during the "Blackmail" sketch but is somewhat lacking. Myers just seems to be awestruck to be standing next to Michael Palin. The inclusion of Stephen Hawking in "Galaxy Song" was a genius move.  Naturally, there are great sing-alongs with the audience on the "Philosopher's Drinking Song" and "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life," probably Idle's most recognized and appreciated songs. 

The Pythons do some work to include videos of the late Graham Chapman to give the effect that his presence is not fully missed. There are occasions where you will remember that he should be there, but the production is enough to make you forget. And for the most part, the comics are still pretty spry, especially Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin. John Cleese is noticeably slower physically, but still very much with it. Carol Cleveland really looks old and out of place as far as the costuming goes. She is still cast in the same parts as she was as a young woman, which doesn’t fully suit her anymore. Sadly, Terry Jones is the one who appears to be one step behind everyone. 

On the whole, this DVD represents the best that the pythons have to offer at this stage of their careers. Classic sketches are given new life and meaning in their present iterations, and the musical stage show is brilliant.  It is a shame that Graham Chapman isn't around to help out,  but what we are given is the best show we could ask for. The only way it could be better is if they could pack it up for the road and give us a world tour. 

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