"We praised the Almighty far beyond what any reasonable entity would have felt comfortable with, and blessed many, many things." - ETHAN COEN in his short story "I Killed Phil Shapiro"
What kind of sane, rational, responsible God would actually want to be worshiped? Shouldn't God be embarrassed by all those flattering hymns, prayers, and ceremonies -- not to mention wars -- in His honor? You'd think so, but a good portion of the Old Testament is given over to God's all-consuming desire to be venerated and obeyed by the people He created. In fact, according to many of His most fervent admirers, God still disapproves of such practices as birth control, homosexuality, and divorce because they deprive Him of earthly offspring. After all, fewer babies mean fewer worshipers, and He can't tolerate that. So be fruitful and multiply, everybody, and if you're a destitute Catholic ex-mill-worker with 70 hungry Catholic children and no income with which to support them, well, you can always sell the little buggers for medical experiments.
These were among my thoughts as I recently re-watched Monty Python's The Meaning of Life for what must be the fiftieth time. I "discovered" this 1983 film, the troupe's last proper group effort, during the early 1990s when I was still in high school, and I'm happy to report that it is still able to make me laugh -- and think -- all these years and viewings later. In fact, when screening the DVD in preparation for this article, I chortled loudly at the antics of Michael Palin's buffoonish Sgt. Major and John Cleese's fawning French-accented Maitre D', even though I knew in advance everything these men were going to say and do. If anything, time has given this film a luster it might not even have had when it was originally released. Nowadays, when "comedy" largely consists of pop culture in-jokes, jaundiced snark, and infantile male bonding, a comedy as audacious and ambitious as The Meaning of Life is a thrill.
And yet, even today, the film does not get the respect that it perhaps deserves from critics, viewers, and even the Pythons themselves, who are divided as to the film's merits. Mention The Meaning of Life on any film-related Internet forum, and you'll get the same few standard complaints. Perhaps foolishly, I will try to address these one by one. Let's see now...