Time Bandits

Movie Information

Genre: Fantasy Comedy
Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Craig Warnock, John Cleese, Sean Connery, Kenny Baker, Ralph Richardson
Rated: PG

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

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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5 thoughts on “Time Bandits

  1. Adam Renkovish

    I just watched this a few nights ago, and thought it was amazing. I’ve been watching lots of Gilliam lately. I just recently saw BRAZIL for the first time, and I purchased a DVD of TIDELAND this week. I hear that it’s pretty wild, but then again, most of his films are.

  2. Ken Hanke

    TIDELAND is one of those movies I keep meaning to get around to and have yet to manage. One day I’ll find myself waiting to talk to Marc in Orbit and run across it in the used section — something I never can resist. In fact, I suspect that Marc has arranged for people to come in and interrupt us just so I’ll be forced to look through the bin.

  3. Adam Renkovish

    Yes, TIDELAND is one of those films that was heavily criticized last year. I guess it is a challenge to sit through the first time around. It was not until my second viewing that I fully grasped it. On the surface, I guess it is a bit of a mess, but there is so much more going on than you initially realize. However, I do understand that it is not for all tastes. I suggest that you give it a try whenever the opportunity presents itself. I’d like to know what you think.

  4. Ken Hanke

    “Heavily criticized” doesn’t really scare me. In fact, there’ve been a lot of films where the bad reviews only served to make the film sound more interesting, since films are frequently criticized for things that I’m okay with. And I prefer things that aren’t for all tastes as a rule (and before somebody jumps on that, it doesn’t mean I look for things to dislike in things that “everybody” loves).

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