Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door to Jesus. He spends his life being mistaken for a messiah.
The jokes come tinned-custard thick and speeding-bullet fast, but it's not the volume of gags that sets the film apart - it's their variety and quality. The Naked Gun and Airplane! may boast similar joke counts, but the Zucker brothers can't compete with the Pythons in terms of stylistic eclecticism: they're as comfortable with slapstick as they are with satire, and equally at home with crass comedy or class comedy.
The competitive spirit among the writing/performing team acts as a kind of ruthless quality control, making each sequence simultaneously economical and incident-packed. For a team often, and at times rightly, accused of self-indulgence, it's pleasingly ironic that their finest hour-and-a-half should be so perfectly structured, with not a second of screen time wasted. The idea of an ex-leper still begging on the streets of Jerusalem, for example, is amusing enough in itself, but the scene doesn't rest on its comedic laurels. Instead, Michael Palin presents a fully rounded, wholly annoying individual, whose tanned skin and perpetual motion hilariously contrast with the doleful, pathetic image of his pre-miracle self conjured up in the viewer's mind's eye. With an adult rating guaranteed by the film’s outwardly controversial subject matter, Life Of Brian also represented the team’s first opportunity to use the foul language denied them in their TV incarnation. The result is some of the finest, Withnail-class comedy swearing available: Palin's outraged would-be pilgrim - "I mean it, you call me Big Nose once more, I'll take you to the fucking cleaners" - or an exasperated Brian rounding on his ever-growing band of disciples - "Alright, I am the Messiah, now will you all fuck off?" Pure class.
A stylistically eclectic comic masterpiece.