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And Now for Something That’s Not Quite a Monty Python Movie

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The actress Gemma Arterton (“Quantum of Solace,” “Prince of Persia”) has joined the cast of Monty Python alum Terry Jones’s “Absolutely Anything,” while the in-demand Benedict Cumberbatch is in talks for the lead role.

It was reported in January that Jones’s fellow Pythons John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, and Michael Palin – along with Robin Williams – had agreed to lend their voices to the computer-generated live-action sci-fi farce, which will go into production next year. Given that Jones is directing it, the movie is the closest to a Python project since 1983’s “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life,” which he also helmed. “It’s not a Monty Python picture,” Jones told Variety, “but it certainly has that sensibility.”

Cleese, Gilliam, Jones, and Palin voiced characters in the current release “A Liar’s Autobiography,” the multi-styled animated 3D memoir of Graham Chapman, the Python who died in 1989. Their colleague Eric Idle did not participate in that film and isn’t involved in “Absolutely Anything.” The Daily Mail reported here in 2011 that Idle and Cleese had fallen out and that Idle’s relationship with the other Pythons had also deteriorated.

Developed by Jones and “Young Indiana Jones” scribe Gavin Scott over the last twenty years, “Absolutely Anything” was originally announced in 2010. According to The Wrap, “the story revolves around a teacher who discovers he has magical powers and can make things happen with the wave of his hand. He can wipe out classrooms of badly behaving students and bring people back to life. But he experiences mishap after mishap as he tries to learn how to use these powers.” The powers are granted to him by extraterrestrials (voiced by the Pythons) agog to see the chaos he creates. Williams plays a talking dog, smarter than any human, called Dennis.

Although any beast from the Python stable is welcome, the voiceover aspect of “A Liar’s Autobiography” and “Absolutely Anything” suggests that the five surviving Pythons are averse to doing a Rolling Stones or a Led Zeppelin 2007 by make a fully-fledged comeback in which they show their faces.

Ranging in age from 69 to 73, they are presumably conscious of preserving their classic image as young Oxbridge-educated (the American Gilliam aside) meta-comedy anarchists who subverted the forms of television from within during the 1969-74 run of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” The official Python films they made separately from the show – “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1974, directed by Jones and Gilliam), “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” (1979, directed by Jones), and “The Meaning of Life” – consecrated that image cinematically. Another film could wreck it. They are thus the Greta Garbos of their era, especially the cuddly one with the lisp.

Image: Terry Gilliam animation from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” (1969–1974)/”Monty Python’s Flying Circus” via Youtube

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