While it may lack the sheer comic anarchy of their other work, LIFE OF BRIAN may be probably the funniest collective efforts concocted by the British comedy troupe "Monty Python's Flying Circus," is their most sustained effort.

In Judea, a mother tends her newborn infant. Three wise men come to herald his birth and then find out that they want the manger next door. This is the birthplace of Brian Cohen, not Jesus Christ. Fast forward to the year 33 AD.: Brian (Graham Chapman) joins the People's Front of Judea, a small group of would-be terrorists. Brian aids a PFJ plot to kidnap the wife of Pontius Pilate (Michael Palin), Roman governor of Jerusalem. But inside Pilate's house, the PFJ run into another terrorist group with the same

plan, and all are captured by Roman guards while squabbling among themselves. Brian escapes and hides from the soldiers by posing as a streetcorner preacher, extemporizing a sermon that is derided by his audience of jaded Messiah-seekers. As soon as he attempts to leave, however, he attracts followers, and the more he runs, the more they're persuaded that he is the true Messiah.

In response to picketing and deamnds that the filled be banned in both US and Great Britain — most from people who hadn't seen the film — the Pythons devoted considerable energy to denying that LIFE OF BRIAN was blasphemous. The film's principal satirical target is religious fanaticism, not religion itself, and its barbs are fairly inoffensive, mocking those who'd rather adhere to a rigid set of approved behaviors rather than think for themselves. Naturally, the usual targets of Pythonic mirth are also in evidence: Pompous public officials, men dressed as women and do-gooders who spend too much time arguing parliamentary procedure to actually accomplish anything.

Chapman is as perfect a befuddled Brian as he was as King Arthur in HOLY GRAIL; he looks straight, noble and stalwart, but there's always that crazed glint lurking in the back of his eyes. Everyone in the troupe is at the peak of his form, and BRIAN contains too many hilarious bits to single out the best. Watch for a quick cameo by former Beatle George Harrison, who reportedly produced LIFE OF BRIAN because he figured it was the only way he'd ever get to see another Python movie.

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