‘The dead one from Monty Python’ provides his own soundtrack for this 3D animated biopic of his bizarre life, based on his book A Liar’s Autobiography, which Graham Chapman thoughtfully recorded himself reading, shortly before he thoughtlessly dropped dead in 1989.
With a lot of famous Python sketches revisited and a host of zany anecdotes, some of the film is indeed very funny, but a lot of it is intensely painful and downright sad and depressing, as Chapman struggles with his boring parents, life at Cambridge university, coming out as 70/30 gay, scriptwriting for David Frost, a 60s TV career, and impressive addiction to sex, fame and above all alcohol. He comes over as a horribly depressed and unhappy individual, and you’re left to intuit why from the skimpy, carefully-obscured evidence he provides.
Fellow Pythons gamely and loyally put their seal of approval on the project and on their affection for Chapman by playing the voices of themselves and other characters (John Cleese’s Frost is a delight), but, why oh why, you are asking, is Cameron Diaz the voice of Sigmund Freud.
The film asks a lot of questions about the meaning of life, and certainly about the meaning of Chapman’s life, but the most important question it poses is: why do all famous people know each other? It ends with John Cleese giving the eulogy at Chapman’s memorial service, calling him ‘a freeloading bastard’. The other Pythons in the audience suddenly crease up with laughter, but somehow 23 years on and 80 minutes on from the start of the movie, it doesn’t seem very funny at all.
As a showcase for a number of young, talented, (mostly Brit) animators, the 3D and animation are excellent, and the directors Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett (whose labour of love this is) want us to know that the capital of Outer Mongolia is Ulan Bator . If this is actually true, you’ll need to know it if you ever appear on Pointless.