May 18, 2018

[Movies] Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go (2014) Review

The unusual circumstances that led to Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go seem oddly appopriately Pythonesque as they had to put up the show in order to pay for legal expenses resulting from a case about back royalty payments.

This show marked their first live performance in 34 years and was also the first time had performed without Graham Chapman, who had passed away in 1989. And while this doesn't necessarily bring in substantial new material, it's really more of a greatest hits sort of event drawing from Monty Python's diverse history.

This is not the most polished recording of a Monty Python live performance. But it's the rough bits around the edges that really make this performance so memorable. But we'll get into detail in the review proper below.

Synopsis: Monty Pyhon Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go was a stage show by the Monty Python group that ran at The O₂ in London in July 2014. It was initially meant to be a single show but they had to set additional shows as the first one had sold out in 45 seconds. This recording is from their last show on 20 July 2014.

This live performance of many of the most popular Monty Python sketches shares a general flow and structure as Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl from 1982. Of course the same could be said of most of their live performances since their most popular sketches will always be their most popular sketches, but the similarities include some of the pre-recorded bits show in the big screen in-between scenes.

What is different about this show is that they added some pretty gratuitous transitions between scenes in the form of rather lavish, West End style big dance routines with a whole host of dancers. It certainly adds a bit of flair to the show beyond just relying on the sketches alone to carry things, and it helps budget enough time for the Pythons to get ready for the next sketch including all the crazy costumes.

What I Liked: Okay, the core Monty Python stuff is pretty timeliness and sketches remain pretty darn funny no matter what you do. And while it's a little sad to feel the absence of Graham Chapman in various sketches he has become well-known for, on the whole it was still a great experience. As a Monty Python fan, watching the sketches again is both a celebration of nostalgia and sort of being with a familiar friend. You may know all the words to the Parrot Sketch but it doesn't mean you won't enjoy seeing it performed again.

What really helps make this performance all the better is the imperfect bits. The Pythons are a lot older than they used to be and their memory isn't as great and it's not like they've been steadily performing this material in recent years. But the mistakes and the forgotten lines end up becoming all the more endearing for one reason or another and it makes for great entertainment.

What Could Have Been Better: At time it felt like more sketches could have benefited from updates or at elast attempts to make things a bit more culturally relevant to major events of the past decade or so. There were some adlibs and changes to this effect but maybe more of it could have been worked in for some of the transitions or the build-up material. Yes, the original sketches are almost sacred in the eyes of fans but it's not like they're delivering them in the exact same way that they once did so many years ago.

Along similar lines I had sort of wished that there were new animations from Terry Gilliam. The opening sequence was pretty fun and had a nice mixing of old and new elements but then that was pretty much it. We did see some of the old animations as part of the pre-recorded stuff shown on screen but since we got only limited amounts of it, I guess that left me wanting more. And that led me to think about wanting new stuff, even if it wasn't necessarily animated by Terry himself, as he's certainly moved on to much bigger things since those Python days.

TL;DR: Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go is in a way a fitting send-off for the Pythons as they pay off their debts and hopefully get to rest and retire comfortably. The mistakes and the gaffes is where the fresh comedy lies in this production and the whole thing is just a lot of good old fashioned fun. Thus the show gets a great 5 surprise cameos in the show out of a possible 5.

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