Directors: Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett
This review originally appeared on Ramp.ie
They never make biopics about boring people, do they? We cinema-goers want to hear about the tragedies and successes of the exotic and interesting. With those criteria, the late Graham Chapman fits the bill nicely. A gay alcoholic eccentric, the nominal leading man of the Monty Python crew led a colourful life but, as the title suggests, A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman may not reveal everything, despite the omnipresence of genitalia throughout the film, all in 3D.
A Liar’s Autobiography is based on narration and interviews recorded by Chapman before his death from tonsil and spinal cancer in 1989. From these recordings have been plucked fourteen animated shorts, each one animated by a different animation studio. Each short boasts a distinctive look; some are bright and cheery, whilst others are knowingly dour, depending on the tone of the material. The shorts chart a journey from Chapman’s childhood days, to his medical training, to the highs of the Python years, to his untimely death. Admirably, the entire film is very upfront about two aspects of Chapman’s life in particular: his homosexuality (Chapman came out in 1967, and was an LGBT rights champion) and his debilitating alcoholism (He was hooked on gin from his college days until the mid-‘70s). However, any insights are at the mercy of the animation and the anarchic Python-esque humour. A Liar’s Autobiography would rather sing about sex (the central musical number is a giddy ditty entitled ‘Sit On My Face’) than examine Chapman’s efforts to support LGBT rights, for example. If you’re looking for documentary-style probing, look elsewhere.
With tongue buried firmly in cheek, A Liar’s Autobiography is full of irreverence and bawdiness, with some of it coming courtesy of the remaining Pythons, who contributed voiceovers to the film. It certainly upholds Chapman’s disdain for complacent good taste but, as an homage to a talented comic mind, it can’t help but feel like a missed opportunity. Despite some laughs, A Liar’s Autobiography offers little we didn’t already know. Even at its funniest, it’s all just a bit too silly.