You could tell who the Monty Python fans weren't at the Toronto International Film Festival screening of A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story Of Monty Python's Graham Chapman.
They were the ones who walked out before the movie was over.
A Pythonesque patchwork indeed, this labour-of-love born of an audio-book recording by the late Graham Chapman is little more than an ambitious companion piece to that transcendent troupe's body of work.
As such, it is a must-see for any Python fan, full of insights into the peculiar alchemy that gave us silly walks, argument rentals and football-playing philosophers. For them alone, it's worth wading through a mess of incongruous animation styles and wannabe-absurdist touches (like Cameron Diaz voicing Sigmund Freud), none of which succeeds in being very funny.
Director Bill Jones, son of Python Terry Jones, undertook this project after uncovering master tapes for a book of the same name written in the early '80s by the hard-living, mercurial bi-sexual Chapman (who died of cancer in 1989).
He succeeded in getting the co-operation of all the other Pythons, save Eric Idle, who notoriously felt bullied by Chapman (Terry Gilliam contributes voicewise, but it would have been wonderful if he'd been one of the animators). In the end, despite all the artistic trappings, Chapman's is a rather linear story of a sensitive and misunderstood English boy who is diverted down a theatrical path via the storied Cambridge Footlights comedy troupe (where he met his creative partner of choice, John Cleese).
Most of the better stories involve Chapman and Cleese, the best of these centering on their time as writers for David Frost, who is portrayed as a ninny and a self-important prat. The tales of his life as a Python -- sprinkled with hedonistic adventures with booze, drugs and promiscuous sex with women and men -- are fairly chronological (and the title notwithstanding, most ring absolutely true). The insights contained in these stories alone should be enough to satisfy ravenous Pythoners.
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