“On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.”
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is so often quoted that it almost needs no introduction. Even if you’ve never watched the movie, you’ve likely heard phrases like, “It’s only a flesh wound!” or “Come and see the violence inherent in the system.” You may have even heard these so many times that you’ve been turned off to the movie. If that’s you, I urge you to give this movie a chance. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most quoted movies ever: it’s funnier than just about any other movie you will ever see.
The plot of Monty Python and the Holy Grail is simple, and serves to tie together a series of Medieval-themed comedy sketches: King Arthur seeks the holy grail, and gathers brave knights to his cause to assist him. The Arthurian legend is one of the most enduring in history, and, while comedic interpretations had been done (as in the book The Once and Future King), this irreverent farce turns the majesty of the original on its head.
This new learning amazes me, Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.
Everything is mocked in this movie—nothing is sacred. The period’s laughable understanding of science is a running joke. The story of King Arthur’s divine appointment as king is torn apart by a politically-minded commoner. The valiant acts of the knights are reduced to accidentally killing a wedding party and fighting a vicious bunny rabbit (and losing). Even the black plague features as a joke in an iconic scene. By the end, all of the stateliness of the legendary characters is shattered, and the less-than-noble modern conclusion seems to fit better than any of classical ones.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail does ridiculous so well that you’ll find your mind wandering back to the comedic scenes for days after viewing. And there’s so much comedy packed into the movie that you’ll likely be finding new jokes upon every viewing. Some of the British idioms are lost on American audiences (does any American really know what it means to push the pram a lot?), but with the jokes flying so fast, there will be plenty to laugh at for everyone. Even now, over forty years later, the movie is refreshing and the travesty of it all is endearing.
I want to recommend this movie to everyone, but realistically, it will be too silly and ridiculous to appeal to some people. Most of the people I’ve shown it to over the years have loved it, but there are a few that just couldn’t get past that barrier. If you’re at least somewhat tolerant of silly jokes and parodies, though, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the reigning champ and is definitely worth checking out.
Directors: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam