September 24, 1979 12:00 PM

It’s clear this is not your ordinary religious epic when the Three Wise Men show up at the wrong manger and a new mother shrieks, “Who are you, then? You must be drunk or something.” Right; it’s the Gospel According to Monty Python, and predictably tasteless. Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), a contemporary of Jesus, is mistaken for a messiah himself, though he’s hardly cut out for the job. When Brian begins a parable, “Consider the lilies of the field,” the crowd shouts, “Why?” When disciples ask his mother if she is a virgin, she tells them to bug off. Even when he’s on the cross, fellow martyrs have to cheer him up by singing, “Look on the bright side of life.” The film is sloppily edited—some scenes trail off, others have neither punch nor punch line—and the speech-defect jokes are more offensive than the sacrilege. The film is, however, at least as funny as Python’s less pointed The Holy Grail. And whatever their intent, the Pythons aren’t nasty enough to set Christianity back 2,000 years. (R, for obscenity and nudity)

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