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Review: A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman
Photo: Brainstorm Media

As its press kit obligatorily insists, A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman is decidedly not a Monty Python film—and, indeed, nobody with even a passing familiarity of the beloved comedy troupe could mistake it for one. A tedious, aggressively unfunny pseudo-biopic about the life of the long-deceased Python, A Liar’s Autobiography isn’t worthy of such a prestigious association. Animated in stereoscopic 3D by 14 different but equally uninteresting animation studios and directed by an amateur party of three, the film represents a haphazardly cobbled-together adaptation of a memoir Chapman authored before his death in 1989, an audio recording of which was picked apart for use as running narration and passages of dialogue. The result, as you might expect, is sloppy, scattered, and too often incoherent. Not only does the doc fail to provide any substantial insight into the life of its openly queer and less openly alcoholic subject, but to even express the basic events of that life in a halfway intelligible manner. With so little semblance of narrative structure and so much unintended ambiguity surrounding simple biographical information, one leaves the film having learned nothing of any import whatsoever. Chapman’s story, frankly, is better served by his Wikipedia page.

Part of the problem here is coverage: Opting to cherry-pick only the most salient features of Chapman’s memoir, the filmmakers are left without any kind of through line or framework to follow, resulting in a work that’s needlessly disjointed and episodic. The decision to animate each passage in a disparate style only adds to the overall sense of confusion and disorder; one never has a clear sense of how these seemingly arbitrary “highlights” of a man’s life, few of which seem especially significant or relevant to any bigger picture, connect to one another beyond having happened to the same person. In fact, despite having been deliberately selected over other, presumably less interesting autobiographical material, it’s very often the case that the episodes themselves are nondescript and uninteresting, leading one to believe that Chapman, despite having lead an ostensibly remarkable life, was actually a pretty boring guy. That or the filmmakers have no idea how to sculpt the raw material of a life into a compelling story about one, which, given the evidence, might be more likely.

Cast: Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Cameron Diaz Director: Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett Screenwriter: Graham Chapman, Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett Distributor: Brainstorm Media Running Time: 82 min Rating: NR Year: 2012 Buy: Video

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