American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Stanley Kauffmann argues in the latest New Republic that Christ might have enjoyed Monty Python's "Life of Brian" because he had a sense of humor, manifested by his occasional puns in the Bible. That's more than can be said for those representatives of established religions who have condemned the movie for being blasphemous.
As Kauffmann rightly points out, "Life of Brian" does not mock the life of Christ, but has its fun with the life of one Brian, born on the same day but in the next stable. The movie shows Christ only twice -- once in the manger, suitably illuminated by a halo, and the second time from the very back rows of the crowd gathered for the Sermon on the Mount ("I can't hear him," one of Brian's contemporaries complains. "What did he say? The Greek shall inherit the Earth? Blessed are the cheesemakers???").
Perhaps you don't find that funny. Perhaps you don't find Monty Python funny; the troupe's peculiarly British brand of humor is sometimes impenetrable to Americans. But is it blasphemous? Hardly. In terms of actual disrespect shown to Biblical legend, such epics as "Samson and Delilah" and "King of Kings" (the Jeffrey Hunter version) are miles more hypocritical -- they appeal to our base instincts while pretending to edify our enlightened ones, a Hollywood process by which one of the most publicized characters in the Bible somehow came to be Salome.
"Life of Brian" is really more about movies than about religion: It finds its origins in those countless Biblical epics where Roman legions marched up and down while intrigue waxed hot and heavy in Pilate's inner court. The movie is the most ambitious project yet for the Python people, but had its inspiration, no doubt, in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," which took on the King Arthur legends.