The discovery of tapes of Graham Chapman reading from his 1980 A Liar’s Autobiography has made it possible for the expired Monty Python member to star, posthumously, in his own biopic. A trio of directors (Ben Timlett, Jeff Simpson, and Bill Jones, son of Terry), working with 14 animation studios, crafted a movie that, like the book, is anarchic, witty, frank, raunchy, and dark. In it, Chapman ’fesses up about his many excesses, which include swilling gin, sexual promiscuity (mostly with men, but also with women), and smoking a pipe (he died at 48 from throat cancer). Neither a Python movie nor strictly a comedy, this enter-taining film invites the question: was Chapman a warrior against convention and hypocrisy, or simply a hedonist who did whatever he could get away with?
Biographical episodes, done in various animation styles, feature newly recorded bits by Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and John Cleese edited into Chapman’s voice-over. In a comic highlight, they play their young selves, depicted as monkeys, bickering over titles for their TV show. Jones and Palin also play Chapman’s dotty Mum and gruff Dad. The medium allows for trippy fantasy (Chapman cruises in a cockmobile) and expressionism (an ink-on-glass animation of Chapman suffering through self-imposed detox from alcohol is intercut with the Python sketch in which he wrestles himself). It’s an affectionate, imaginative tribute to the artist’s idiosyncratic take on life.