Review for Monty Python: Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)
Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy) is Eric Idle's operatic retelling of Monty Python's Life of Brian. Now, I love Brian. It's in my top ten films of all time and I am also a huge Monty Python fan. So this is bound to be right up my street. However, upon hearing about this, I was a little uneasy. Like many 'reimagining' like Idle's Spamalot musical version of Holy Grail, would this compare with the original? Plus opera? Really? I'm not a big fan of opera at the best of times and so surely this is going to be a huge mistake right?
Wrong! So, very, very wrong!
This retelling of Brian is actually quite good. Granted it's not got anything on the original, but I have to admit I enjoyed watching and listening to this. Eric Idle is joined by four soloists who sing their way through the plot of Life of Brian over ninety minutes. They are also joined by special appearances by fellow Pythons Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam. Only John Cleese (Graham Chapman having died in 1989) does not appear, which is a shame as this is also supposed to be a celebration of forty years of Monty Python.
It is really difficult to analyse the quality of the music and though (apart from the classic Always look on the bright side of life) I can't imagine me singing any of the songs from this musical, I still could imagine myself listening to this in the background while I was reading. In fact, I have it on at the moment as I write this. The mix of musical styles from traditional classical to Spanish to a hilarious parody of Bob Dylan also works wonderfully. The humour is not labored, but includes some of the classic jokes from the film and if only traditional opera had a thimbleful of the jokes from this show it would make watching them far easier.
Included on the set is a number of extras. Two short documentaries covering the lead up to the performance and the impact of the song Always look on the bright side of life are nice and the main documentary is interesting too. The oddest extra, is the inclusion of a number of sing alongs, which with a traditional musical would have worked, but this felt a little odd.
Monty Python: Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy) is a wonderful homage to both Python and Brian. For fans of both (as I am) you should and will enjoy the nostalgia of listening to classic lines from Brian in a whole new way. At times, it feels like you are watching a staged version of Life of Brian and by the end all I wanted to do was watch the original, which is really what a good remake should do. It stands up on its own values, but also bolsters the impact and effect of the original which is great. It may not by Life of Brian, but it's certainly not a very naughty opera.