Time Bandits [Retro Review]

“If I were creating the world I wouldn’t mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o’clock, Day One!”

The Scoop: 1981 PG, directed by Terry Gilliam and starring John Cleese, Sean Connery, and Shelley Duvall

Tagline: …they didn’t make history, they stole it!

Summary Capsule: Gang of little people abduct a boy and go on a time-travelling thieving spree

Mike’s Rating: Five out of Five stinking Kevins

Mike’s Review: Terry Gilliam is something of a weirdo. After his stint as a writer and performer on Monty Python’s Flying Circus (including directing Holy Grail), he went on to direct some of the weirdest movies of the past few decades. Brazil and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas come to mind. So does 12 Monkeys. So does a meatball sub, but that’s probably because I’m hungry right now. Yeah, Gilliam’s movies kinda skirt the edges of what’s normal, but lucky for us they’re also brilliant. Time Bandits makes for a nice bridge between Gilliam’s zany Python days and the more visually surreal, thought-provoking, Bruce Willis’ ass-baring movies he became known for.

Kevin is your average ordinary British kid, fascinated with history and largely ignored by his materialistic parents. Then one night, a guy sporting a full suit of medieval armor on horseback does a triple-gainer out of the kid’s closet, and before you can cook a block of ice into beef bourguignon, Kevin’s mundane existence is getting an atomic wedgie.

This particular wedgie takes the form of six dwarves led by the brash Randall. Former employees of The Supreme Being, the titular bandits have stolen a map of all creation, specifically all of the holes in time and space, and are utilizing it to travel through time and steal treasures from famous historical figures. Needless to say The Supreme Being wants his map back, but unbeknownst to the would be robbers, Evil himself has his own designs for it.

As much fun as this movie certainly is, all is not well in Time-travelling Midgetville. The visual effects sadly never really live up to the premise or the director, particularly now that we have his more recent undertakings like Fear and Loathing. The movie starts strong and ends strong but the middle seriously draaaaaaaaaags on, (the Napoleon and Agamemnon scenes especially). If you can power on through the less interesting scenes however, the zaniness, askewed history, hilarious dialogue and terrific over-the-top performances more than make up for it. High points go to Python alums John Cleese as Robin Hood and Michael Palin (who also co-wrote) as the guy with the “personal problem”, but ultimately they’re not the ones I’m about to give a whole paragraph to.

David Warner as Evil is, quite simply, the greatest villain ever not played by Clancy Brown or Alan Rickman. It’s amazing that Warner was able to do so much with a character that doesn’t really leave one room, but there you have it. He delivers ridiculous lines so deadpan, with such gravitas that one really is forced to wonder how often he cracked up and how many takes it took. Plus he gets the best lines in the whole movie. The cast is quite talented and entertaining but the one who really walks away with the movie is Warner.

Despite it’s flaws, TB is definitely woth your time. It’s a pretty good fantasy flick with more than a healthy amount of Python-flavored satire and sensibility thrown into the mix for good measure. A must-have for Gilliam fans who should be trying to collect all his movies anyway, (yes, The Brothers Grimm too). Plus, as a bonus, you’ve got a half-dozen British midgets running around the whole of history. That’s just entertaining.

Not only is he the president of the floating head club for men... he's also a client.

Intermission!

  • The rectangular holes in reality: signs of intelligent design. I think that’s pretty cool.
  • The ancient Greek warriors had to learn 44 different methods of un-armed combat.
  • The knight that flies out of Kevin’s window looks suspiciously like one of the the Knights who say “Ni!”
  • Your food has to go down before you go to bed.
  • Why Napoleon keeps his hand in his shirt.
  • Vermin eats anything
  • Randall reminds me of Warwick Davis
  • I think I probably would have started with lasers too
  • All of the fighters in the last battle, (the cowboys, soldiers, spaceship, etc) can all be seen as toys in Kevin’s room. Even giant Lego blocks make up part of Evil’s fortress.
  • In the original script, the intorduction of Agamemnon read as follows: “The warrior took off his helmet, revealing someone that looks exactly like Sean Connery.” To Terry Gilliam’s surprise, Connery actually ended up reading the script and became interested in the part, and had his agent approach the filmakers to do the movie.
  • Mrs. Ogre was originally supposed to have heavy make-up to look like her husband. According to Katherine Helmond, she was completely committed to having to wear the heavy make-up effects job, yet she suggested to Terry Gilliam that she thought it would be funnier if Mrs. Ogre instead looked like an ordinary New England housewife. Gilliam agreed.
  • Time Bandits is the first in an informal trilogy with two of director Terry Gilliam’s other films, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. The three movies represent the three stages of Man (youth, middle age, and elderly) and the impact of imagination on each.

Groovy Quotes

    Evil: If I were creating the world I wouldn’t mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o’clock, Day One!

    Wally: Lads! Here’s to stinking rich!
    All: Yeah!
    Fidgit: And to Kevin.
    All: Yeah, Kevin!
    Og: Stinking Kevin.

    Wally: Vermin, that is not meant to be eaten!
    Vermin: You never know until you’ve eaten it!

    Evil: Oh, Benson… Dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.

    Evil: Suddenly, I feel very, very good.
    Robert: Oh, I’m sorry, Master.
    Evil: No, it’ll pass, it’ll pass.

    Supreme Being: I should do something very extroverted and vengeful to you. Honestly, I’m too tired.

    Kevin: It’s some kind of invisible barrier.
    Fidgit: Oh, so that’s what an invisible barrier looks like.

    Napoleon: Little things hitting each other. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE!

    Evil: Now Benson, I’m going to have to turn you into a dog for a while.

    Evil: Oh, Robert, Benson! I feel the power of evil coursing through my veins, filling every corner of my being with the desire to do wrong! I feel so bad, Benson!
    Benson: Good! Good!
    Evil: Yes, it is good, for this is the worst kind of badness that I’m feeling!

    Pansy: Oh, Sir Vincent, you came for me!
    Vincent: Oh, good Mistress Pansy, I could not have ridden faster! Four horses have I exhausted this day from Nottingham!
    Pansy: Oh, the way you leapt to my chamber, so full of… of… manliness!
    Vincent: I could scarce restrain the rushing of my feet! These twelve long years have been like chains abound me!
    Pansy: Oh… Oh, and the personal problem?
    Vincent: Oh, much, much better.

    Evil: When I have the map, I will be free, and the world will be different, because I have understanding.
    Robert: Uh, understanding of what, Master?
    Evil: Digital watches.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Movie News « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

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