In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Amongst all of its insanity, the ‘normal’guy is the weirdest one”
“Dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.”
Terry Gilliam is a weird director for me. I don’t love (or even like) that may of his movies, but I can’t help getting excited whenever there’s a new one coming out, or whenever I finally get around to watching an oldie I know I should have seen years ago. Time Bandits doesn’t come with the classic reputation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Or the cult love of Brazil. Or the star power of Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys. Or even with the glorious failure spectacle of something like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. What Times Bandits does come with from others who sing its praises, is a feeling of childhood nostalgia.
And within the first few minutes, I could tell why this does have such a fond place in the memories of so many people. When a full sized horse bursts out of a boy’s wardrobe in his mundane, suburban bedroom, I felt that nostalgia too, even though I’m an adult and was seeing Time Bandits for the first time.
Kevin is the eleven year old child to boring parents who are more concerned with owning the latest appliance than they are with raising their son. Soon after he decides the horse crashing through his wardrobe was a dream, six dwarves walk out of the same cupboard and the story is off and racing.
Lead by Randall (Ftumch from the Young Ones), the dwarves are on a crime spree through history, stealing gold and valuables from every era, using a map of time holes they stole from the Supreme Being. Kevin joins them on their adventure and their first stop is Napoleonic France. You’d never guess, but a band of dwarves, a young child and Napoleon result in a whole heap of short jokes. At least they’re good short jokes.
Next stop, the Middle Ages, where Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall appear as an unhappy, unlucky, impotency plagued couple, and John Cleese shows up as Robin Hood. Cleese is on the screen for about five minutes, but it’s enough for me to think he might now be my favourite version of Robin Hood ever.
A mix up leaving the Middle Ages sends Kevin to ancient Greece by himself, where in the space of about three minutes, he meets and is adopted by Sean Connery’s King Agamemnon. Until the dwarves find him again and they all end up aboard the Titanic. If anyone else made this movie, it would be a complete mess. Somehow though, with Gilliam at the helm, it all makes sense and stays on the rails (just).
While all this has been going on, a bad guy named (appropriately enough) Evil, has been trying to steal the time hole map from the dwarves so he can defeat the Supreme Being. This all leads to a huge showdown between the dwarves, along with friends they’ve made through various stages of history, up against Evil. Until this point, the Supreme Being has been nothing more than a disembodied, mystical head with a booming voice. But when he arrives for the final battle, Gilliam makes the Supreme Being an ever so quaint, middle class Englishman. It shows what kind of movie Time Bandits is, that amongst all of its insanity, the “normal” guy is the weirdest one. Oh, and the happy ending may or may not involve the eleven year old’s inattentive parents exploding. Yep, Time Bandits sure is a Terry Gilliam movie.
(Review originally posted July 17, 2013)