You can tell spring is officially here because outdoor movies — courtesy of Walk-in Theatre — are back. And the first up has time travel, a band of roguish dwarves bent of thievery, the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) at war with the Evil Genius (David Warner), some Monty Python-like humor, big name guest stars. What’s more, this 1981 film tops it all off with a great George Harrison song. What more can reasonably be asked of a film? Not much actually.
Terry Gilliam’s second solo work as a director, Time Bandits, is a huge improvement over his very disappointing — and somewhat distasteful — Jabberwocky. Its tale about a young boy, Kevin (Craig Warnock), who runs away with a larcenous version of the seven dwarves (six in number here; the seventh apparently having died prior to our story) has an immediate appeal, and proves a perfect vehicle to satirize rampant consumerism in the guise of a fairy tale.
There’s a good deal of Pythonesque quirkiness to the story. After all, it hinges on the basic concept that the Supreme Being did a bit of a botch job on creation and ended up with holes in the fabric of time. Those holes allow anyone with a map to slip in and out of time, taking short cuts from one historical era to the next. Problem is that the Supreme Being wants the map back, and, worse, so does the Evil Genius.
Along the way to a resolution, we have John Cleese as Robin Hood, Sean Connery as Agamemnon, Ian Holm as Napoleon, Peter Vaughan (better known in Britain) as an ogre — with Shelly Duval, Michael Palin and Katherine Helmond in support. Owing to the nature of the film, some bits work better than others, but it’s generally a lot of clever fun — and if there is a Supreme Being, we can only hope he’s like Ralph Richardson.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke