- Movie Rating -

Time Bandits (1981)

| November 6, 1981

I want to love Time Bandits much more than my common sense will allow.  Here is a movie with such a massive concept, with such huge resources, with such a wealth of imagination that when it works, you’re glad to be a part of it.  But then there are long stretches that are painfully slow, dramatically inert and at least one key scene that is as dull as dishwater.  The movie runs about 2 hours, and I am sure that most people would agree that 90 minutes might have been enough.

Let’s start with the good stuff.  This is a incredibly imaginative adventure involving a little boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock) whose outer world is dull and full of piffling rules by grown-ups who aren’t interested in him.  One night after light’s out, a knight on horseback breaks through his bedroom wall and escapes into a fantasyland that appears on the other side of the room.  Hiding under the covers (naturally) Kevin comes out of hiding only to find that the walls have repaired themselves.  Then the follow-up: a gang of six little people acting as pirates who are in pursuit of the faceless rider.  But then their pursuer chases them into an oblivion that leads to another time and place, somewhere in the middle of the French Revolution.

It seems that the pirates have stolen a map from God that leads them to various points throughout human history and thus begins a wonderous for Kevin through various time periods and meeting up with different historical figures like King Agamemnon, Robin Hood and Napoleon and through a journey on the ill-fated voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic.  Needless to say, this is a boy’s fantasy, pure fantasy for a kid around 10-years-old.  There’s everything from knights on horseback, to wild sci-fi fantasy to Robin Hood and his Merry Men and even to western heroes.  But it’s not all warm and fuzzy.

The journey through these time periods is not exactly seen with wonder.  They’re more or less pushed through with a breakneck pace much in the vein of a Monty Python product.  In fact, this is sort of a MP product.  It was directed by Terry Gilliam and even features John Cleese and Michael Palin who had a hand in the writing.  Given that, you kind of get why the movie is so cold and why it is often scattershot when it comes to narrative.  These guys write pieces, not narratives and that’s what we have here.  While it is a wonder to behold (you can see the storyboards in every frame), the story moves in fits and starts and has such a manic pace that it kind of wears you out.  Certain scenes, like the one in Kevin’s bedroom, are thrilling, but others like the Titanic bit grind the movie to a halt.

I am in great admiration for what is here.  Some if the sights are breath-taking as when the band ends up in a boat that is picked up by a giant and used as a hat.  And the infinite lair of the Evil Genius was something both sinister and fascinating.  And yet, I find that it is half of a movie that I admired while the other half was confusing and disorganized.  When it was over, I realized that it was hard to for me to jump for joy about it.  It’s a good experience but one that runs too long and has too much that doesn’t work.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized