Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Life of Brian

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, June 7, 1999

And that’s capricorn, is it?

Special features


A young man, born in the manger next door to Jesus of Nazareth, ends up joining the People’s Front of Judea and being mistaken for the messiah of Israel.

RecommendationRent Soon!
DirectorTerry Jones
WritersGraham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Movie Rating6
Transfer Quality6
Overall Rating5
  • Letterbox

This movie was banned in a number of places, and the original backing left, because of its blasphemous nature. Honestly, I don’t see it. Jesus barely even shows up. The only thing that might be construed as “dangerous” religion-wise, is the idea that, during that time, Israel was desperately looking for a savior. But this, I think, is fairly well established from the historical record, and even Jesus mentions a concern for the number of false prophets.

The opening credits sequence is one of those classic Monty Python (Terry Gilliam) animations. I always have a problem with them: I tend to like them better than the main feature!

The movie itself is actually a bit tame compared to other Python movies, such as “The Holy Grail” and “The Meaning of Life”. Brian is born in the manger next door to the manger where Joseph and Mary have shacked up for the night, and the Three Wise Men initially think he’s the messiah. Until they leave, see the god-light coming out of the manger next door. Then they burst back in, push Brian’s mother into the ground, and steal back the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. She probably isn’t too disappointed about the myrrh. We next see Brian in “33 A.D.” watching the sermon on the mount. (“Blessed are the cheesemakers.”) Interestingly in retrospect, no mention was made of Herod’s killing of all of Jesus’ contemporaries. It has the potential for the kind of disgusting, in-your-face comedy that the Python team is known for.

One of the reasons Israel was desperate for a saviour is that they were desperate to be saved: saved from Roman rule. Unable to see the benefits of a despotic dictatorship (good roads and fresh water, to name a few), a number of revolutionary groups form, though unfortunately the revolutionary business is very competitive. The People’s Front of Judea hates the Judean People’s Front, and the Popular Front of Judea has split off so much that he’s just one man.

Brian joins the People’s Front and, in the process of getting a lesson in Latin from a Roman guard, becomes a hero. As a hero, he has to run from the Romans, and in the process of running from the Romans he becomes one of many candidates for the messiah, and gets laid in the bargain.

We all know how the story ends (if you don’t, ask one of your christian friends), but the trip there is typical (if subdued) Python-esque humor. Just when you think its going to be a fairly historically accurate comedy, the space ships come down. Just when you think you’re going to get through an entire Python movie without the cast breaking into song, well, you’ve got to see it to believe it. Always look on the bright side of life, folks. Even when you’re hanging from the cross.

One of the cool bits is how people talk to Brian when they think he’s the Messiah: they talk in unison, just like Christians in church today. There are also good, completely unexpected sight gags, such as when the dead bodies are being pulled away in the colosseum.

This is a great movie, but not one of my favorite Python movies. If you haven’t seen it, and you haven’t got anything against Monty Python movies, you should definitely see it. You could always save it up for an Easter party.

As far as the DVD goes, the only extra is the trailer, which is, dare I say, uninspired compared to the movie. The transfer isn’t the best, but it is okay, and much better than VHS.

Recommendation: Rent Soon!

DirectorTerry Jones
WritersGraham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
GroupMonty Python
Spoken languageEnglish
Special FeatureTrailer
More links

If you enjoyed The Life of Brian…

For more about Biblical, you might also be interested in Jesus Christ Superstar and The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast.

For more about English, you might also be interested in The Ruling Class and Wallace & Gromit.

For more about Terry Gilliam, you might also be interested in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.