Sometimes a film comes along that is so damn perfect that we can only pray to the Gods who rule over greedy Hollywood producers that they never sully the good name of 'Time Bandits.' In case you haven't guessed – I'm a fan. It's a story about a child that isn't necessarily FOR children. A young lad named Kevin wakes up one night to find, er, a knight, rampaging through his bedroom. And, to the film's extra credit, only a few scenes later the adventure is underway proper when the very next evening, the armoured medieval warrior on horseback is replaced by a gang of foul-mouthed and foul-tempered dwarfs who have stolen the Supreme Being's map of the universe and are now in the process of exploiting the various 'holes' in time for financial gain.
Yeah, it's a bit weird. And a bit 'out there,' but then it's directed by no less than Terry Gilliam. 'Who's that?' you ask. Okay, so you're probably under thirty and aren't that aware of that oh so influential comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus. Gilliam was basically the sixth Python who mainly stayed behind the camera drawing crazy cartoons of giant feet and killer prams. In other words, he's well used to weirdness and it shows in every frame. Now, despite also featuring fellow Pythons John Cleese and Michael Palin, don't get fooled into thinking that this is just a 'Monty Python the Movie' (like their other big screen epics 'Life of Brian' and 'The Holy Grail'). Although it does have many weird and surreal qualities as Kevin and the seven dwarfs (I'm not sure there are exactly seven, but near enough) skip through time, doing their best to steal everything that isn't nailed down, while, at the same time, avoiding the wrath of our Creator. However, it never feels like it's set in the same 'Python' universe (sorry if I make it sound like Marvel's shared cinematic universe!).
As I mentioned at the beginning, 'Time Bandits' is much darker in tone and, despite Kevin being young and innocent, he's often placed in real danger and faced with many disturbing images and situations that may well upset a younger audience. However, regardless of his young age, the actor himself plays it well and is never less than enjoyable to watch, evoking a real sense of sympathy in him due to his homelife and desire to better himself. This is placed in direct contrast to the dwarfs who are little more than common criminals and yet we still find ourselves rooting for them because they are literally the underdogs and humorous to boot. In every time period they seem to end up in brings the opportunity for one celebrity cameo after the next. As I've already said a couple of familiar Pythons pop up, but expect appearances from Ian Holm and even Sean Connery (who maintains his trademark Scottish drawl despite being a Greek king!).
With great characters, great actors, a weird and wonderful story filled with practical effects that would make Michael Bay weep and an end battle scene that is different enough to put any recent Hollywood fist fight or superhero movie to shame, it's hard to say anything negative about 'Time Bandits.' It's a true cult classic that is as delightful (in a dark kind of way) today as it ever was. If I had to dwell on anything minor it might be how this sort of film just isn't appreciated any more by (the majority of) the youth. I can see it forever maintaining a special place in many of my generation's hearts, but, as the years go by, less and less people will be interested in a quirky little tale involving spaceships and Minotaurs and, instead, prefer men in iron suits flying round cities swatting an army of computer-generated aliens. Nothing wrong with that, but I think there should always be room for different types of films. And they don't come much different than 'Time Bandits.' If you love quirky. If you love Python and if you love practical effects then you have to have to watch this before it gets remade and computer generated to extinction.