You’d think that the release of a Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray ($14.19) would be reason enough to celebrate, especially since this is the film’s first appearance on a high-definition format. Though it was the last movie that the British comedy troupe ever made, it still has some of the funniest bits they ever committed to film. Which makes it all the more painful that Universal Home Video didn’t do a better job with it.
The most glaring problem with the Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray is that the 1983 sketch comedy film doesn’t look as good as you might hope from a high def disc. Yes, it does look slightly better than the Two-Disc Special Edition that came out on DVD ten years ago, but because it’s only in 480p — as opposed to 720p or 1080p — it really only looks better if you do a back-to-back comparison. In fact, if picture quality is the factor you use to decide whether or not to upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray, then this just isn’t worth the double dip, especially since this has almost all of the same extras as the DVD (“almost” being the operative word here).
Granted, you could argue that a movie this old will never as good as a modern movie shot with modern equipment. But that doesn’t explain why the Blu-ray of 1954’s Godzilla looks much better than the DVD. Granted, the Godzilla Blu-ray was made by Criterion, who are known for putting a lot of effort into their discs, but watching the Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray will make you think Universal didn’t put any effort into it.
What slightly makes up for this image issue is that the Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray includes “The Meaning Of Monty Python: 30th Anniversary Reunion,” a new, hour-long, clearly unscripted meeting of the minds that will have you laughing almost as much as the movie. Watching it, you not only understand why these guys — Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and Eric Idle; Graham Chapman passed away in 1989 — are funny on their own, but absolutely hilarious when they play off each other.
Even cooler, it’s not just informative, as it explains how the movie came to be, but it’s also revelatory because it goes even deeper than the making-of special “The Meaning Of The Making Of The Meaning Of Life,” which is also included here. They don’t just go into more depth about the making of the movie, though; they also talk about some of the sketches that didn’t make it into the film, as well as how much of a good time they had writing them, and maybe they should go do that again some time.
Aside from “The Meaning Of Monty Python,” the other extras on the Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray all come from the aforementioned Two-Disc Special Edition DVD from 2003. And in a move that’s annoyingly uncommon these days, it actually includes almost all them.
These include a new introduction Idle shot in 2003, a funny commentary by Jones and Gilliam, some unsung songs, the original trailers and TV commercials, “Un Film De John Cleese: A New Trailer For The John Cleese Version Of The Film,” a three-minute long faux reunion called “Virtual Reunion: The Python’s Together Again,” a digital copy of the film, and “What Fish Think,” which looks like a screensaver of a fish tank if those fish occasionally commented on their own lives. And were British.
The Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray even, ironically, includes a featurette called “Remastering A Masterpiece: How To Revive An Old Master,” though it’s actually more of a spoof on those kinds of featurettes.
What it doesn’t include, sadly, is the Director’s Cut of the movie, which was an option on the DVD, and restored a couple of deleted sketches back in the film. This, unto itself, is not a problem, since that version of the film isn’t better than the original. But like the DVD, you can only watch those scenes on the Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray with commentary by Jones; you can’t watch them on their own.
The Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray is also missing the DVD-Rom features that were included in the DVD, including the original screenplay, scripts of unused sketches, the sheet music for the songs, and “The Fat Recipes.” But since I don’t think I looked at those when I got the DVD version ten years ago, it’s hard to complain about their absence now.
For longtime fans of the film or the Pythons, the Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life Blu-ray is worth getting if you don’t already own it on DVD, or if you do but think you’ll want to watch the reunion more than once. The film is still very funny, and the special features are numerous and special indeed. But if you were hoping this edition would have a much better looking version of the movie, or you’re a big fan of the director’s cut or the deleted scenes, this just isn’t worth the upgrade.