Despite the involvement of three directors, more than a dozen animation houses and the vocal contributions of most of the remaining Pythons, this biopic of comedian Graham Chapman is sadly lacking in what made the anarchic troupe so great.
At its best, Monty Python was both funny and shocking; A Liar’s Autobiography is neither, offering only limited insight into the life of the team’s most enigmatic and intriguing member.
Chapman played rugby, wore tweeds and smoked a pipe, and was often cast as the bewildered “straight man” in sketches and films.
Using audio recordings he made a few years before his death from cancer at the age of 48, the film also sheds light on his homosexuality, struggles with alcoholism and, on the evidence here, a sex addiction.
The sections dealing with his drink problem and celebrity lifestyle do make for engaging viewing, but the sudden shifts in animation style are awkward and distracting. And, even at 85 minutes, the movie often drags as if there was insufficient quality material to draw upon.
Here’s how A Liar’s Autobiography fared with critics from other publications:
Kim Newman, Empire: “Oddly, it’s Chapman’s writing that’s the weak link, but there’s an array of imaginative, inventive, disturbing material, not least a brilliant, upsetting evocation of celebs wasting away in Los Angeles.” – 3 stars
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian: “This animated tribute to Monty Python’s Graham Chapman is a bit indulgent, but very watchable, and has some serious points to make.” – 3 stars
Ben Walters, Time Out: “The 3D element adds curiosity value but the varying tones give a patchy feel to the enterprise without adding up to anything as radical as the Pythons’ own assault on TV conventions. A cordial tribute to a fascinating chap nonetheless.” – 3 stars
Geoffrey MacNab, The Independent: “Although the film gives us a strong sense of Chapman’s quixotic personality, the storytelling is wayward and impressionistic.” – 2 stars
Tim Robey, The Daily Telegraph: “Bafflingly unfunny, and made with a ruinous lack of guiding intelligence.” – star rating N/A