Kant help wondering about "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life," a Hegel of a picture, but not the Sartre film for everybody.
In it, the philosophic Pythons mull cosmic issues -- sperm, birth, gluttony, life assurance -- with hedonistic fervor. But their predilection for comic anarchy -- vomit jokes, disembowelment and dismemberment skits -- ruin the last half of a promising film.
It begins with a clever swashbuckling parody, in which an old banking firm weighs anchor and sets sail on the seas of high finance. The old building, in a wonderful sequence by animator Terry Gilliam, attacks a glassy corporate headquarters. Old-timers in visors duel modern executives, bumbershoots against the shards of a corporate logo.
There's also the Victorian charm of Parts I (birth) and II (growth and learning), with Michael Palin and John Cleese. The first is a song-and-dance diatribe against Catholic doctrine, a production number on the order of "Oliver." Grubby urchins, nuns in big hats that look like sails and cardinals in perambulators salute DNA in the raw -- "Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate."
But tedium and bad taste soon set in, as the comic incontinents lose control mid-film -- specifically the live liver-donor and the exploding fat-man scenes. Besides being mondo grosso, what's the point? And what, after all, is "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life"? Cleese explains, "It boils down to money." MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE -- At area theaters.