TIFF 2012 Review: ‘A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman’ Is A Bad Lie

We all love Monty Python (if you don’t, just pretend you know what I’m talking about and keep going). And by that standard, anything with the name in the title must be gloriously brilliant. It’s going to break comedic ground by its ability to comment on the highest level of societal discussion. At the same time, it’s going to be the silliest piece of nonsense you’ve ever found yourself gut-splitting, on the floor, laughing at — while crying, as well. A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman, however, is not a Monty Python film. It is an act of self-indulgent nostalgia by a group of men who love their colleague.

In 1986, three years before his death from cancer, Graham Chapman decided to conduct an experiment by taping an audio book that would serve as a fictional telling of his life. It seems that filmmakers Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett got ahold of these tapes and thought it would be a grand idea to rally a few of the Python gang together to fill in some gaps and turn it into this odd animated feature.

The film’s ability to remain uninteresting is without a doubt one of the most confounding things at this festival. It opens with an animated re-enactment of a sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus with Chapman having a slip and forgetting his line. His mind springs back, searching for said line, and into the story of his life and how he came to be the homosexual tweed jacket-wearing odd man of a comedy group. We’re taken from childhood, where we see Chapman as a baby being strolled out over severed limbs during the war, all the way back to the sketch that opened the film. The only problem with all of that is that none of it is any good. The film provides little insight into the life of Chapman, since many parts of the film are noted to be fictional and therefore all of the other parts are immediately discredited. And it isn’t funny.

A Liar’s Autobiography almost strikes me as a comedian experimenting with a routine, in which he hasn’t quite worked out all the kinks, and which someone thought would be great to throw up on the screen as the finished product.

The entire movie is told through animation, with actual film clips of Chapman and Monty Python show being shown sparingly, and the style is changed frequently. As there were multiple animation studios being outsourced to do each chapter, the style of animation was without much reasoning given different flavors throughout the film. There are a couple of chapters, like the one in which Chapman is just starting to sober up, where the style makes it a bit obvious why they were used, but otherwise it felt unnecessary at best.

The Upside: It doesn’t ruin the actual Flying Circus.

The Downside: It’s in 3D and doesn’t seem to use the effect well.

On The Side: Cameron Diaz was Sigmund Freud.

Grade: D-

I've been scribbling things on walls long enough to know that the internet needs more scribblers. Here I am having written for multiple online (and print) outlets within the last decade with just as much experience as that other guy who thinks it's cool that his reviews are all indexed on twitter. So this is me hoping you enjoy my words and say hi at the end of the day.

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