Sunday, June 10, 2018

Time Bandits

Time Bandits; fantasy comedy, UK, 1981; D: Terry Gilliam, S: Craig Warnock, David Rappaport, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Mike Edmonds, Jack Purvis, Tiny Ross, David Warner, Ian Holm, John Cleese, Sean Connery, Michael Palin, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Sheila Fearn
Kevin (11) is a kid fascinated with history, but is neglected by his parents who are only interested in kitchen machines. One night, Kevin is shocked when six dwarfs enter his bedroom and bring him on to a journey across time: their leader, Randall, has a time map that shows small portals which lead to different eras in history. Randall and the dwarfs intend to travel through time and rob historic figures. On their journey, they encounter Napoleon, Robin Hood, Agamemnon and then head of to the era of legends, but get trapped by Evil who wants to use the map to re-write the entire world according to his own wishes. However, the Supreme Being shows up, stops Evil and obtains the map back. Kevin is brought back to his apartment, but his parents touch a piece of Evil's remains, and thus disintegrate.

Terry Gilliam's 3rd feature length film, which he co-wrote with his ex-Monty Python colleague Michael Palin, is a bizarre grotesque which, just like every subsequent film the director would make, was met with split reactions: some consider it a cult film and Gilliam's most accessible, fun flick, while others dismiss it as patchwork that slowly gets lost in the sea of autistic nonsense. Gilliam's hyper-surreal style and "distorted" set-designs truly are not for everyone, yet thanks to so many irresistible jokes, "Time Bandits" still lean towards the former impression. Since it traverses from one time period to another, the storyline is very episodic and thus each segment is "on its own": some episodes are pointless (the ogre; the giant wearing a ship as a hat) yet some rise to the occasion and deliver a few delicious gags, among them certainly the excellent John Cleese who delivered another comic creation in his career in the role of a perfectly clean and neatly dressed up Robin Hood, who really stands out as a sore thumb among all his dirty, poverty stricken followers, especially in the scene where he has an exchange with one of the dwarfs ("How long have you been a robber?" - "4'1").

Another great creation is that of David Warner who plays the Evil, the villain who wants to get the map and who has a few hilarious outbursts of rebellion against the Supreme Being who designed the flawed world—Evil's cynical monologue in front of his henchmen is gold ("Slugs! He created slugs! They can't hear. They can't speak. They can't operate machinery. Are we not in the hands of a lunatic?... 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!"). Some of the jokes appear so swiftly, in a visual way, that it is a delight—the dwarfs trying to steal a ring from a sleeping Napoleon, only to find out why he always kept his hand in his shirt (he had a prosthetic hand) or when one of the waiters on a ship moves away to reveal a sign on the wall that says "Titanic". These innocent jokes work far better than the black humor Gilliam is known for. Still, "Time Bandits" cannot shake away two impressions: the similar time-travel comedy "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" seems much fresher, whereas all the supporting characters are far more interesting than the main ones, since all six dwarfs act almost as extras throughout the entire film.

Grade:++

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