January 2, New York: There is an inherent danger in revisiting comedic favorites, I’ve learned. Your expectations are high, but with your distance from the material you are discovering many of the jokes anew. Monty Python, though funny, was hardly the wriggling bucket of hilarity I remembered it being from my teenaged years of obsessively loving this movie.
Jill and I watched it together last night (we had to order a DVD because you can’t stream it anywhere on the ol’ internet) and we did laugh with frequency. Various points tickled out a chortle and there were the occasional guffaws. But were we rolling around on the couch with tears coming out of our eyes? No.
I think cinematic comedy has evolved rapidly in the last few decades. Comedic expectation quickly gobbles up and digests new high water marks like Monty Python in their heyday and then mixes their techniques into the next generations of comedic works along with more and more laughing-bits until the original source material is no longer easily identifiable. The things that make us laugh in this film seem few and far between because more recent comic works have taken the absolute funniest bits and further compressed them so that its laugh after laugh after laugh.
The other difference here is that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, at its core, a series of Monty Python sketches. There are a few recurring characters and vaguely a plot super-structure, but its basically just “Hey you Pythons, do your work but set it in the middle ages.” This feels like another aspect of the humor challenges— contemporary comedies are plot-driven funny trains, not wandering journeys through the lands of the laughs.
But look, this movie was still funny. Gilliam’s animations were great; the knights who say nee and their shrubbery; the battle with the black knight; the fearsome bunny and the holy hand grenade: all really great.
Okay, so in order to buy this film, you’re going to have to order the DVD. I know, I know.