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Time Bandits (1981)

All the dreams youve ever had - and not just the good ones...

Directed by:

Terry Gilliam

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 116 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom

If it were somehow possible to take the works of H.G. Welles, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Roald Dahl and – of course – Monty Python, and put them all in one great big fantasy-adventure melting pot, the end result wouldn’t be a million miles away from ‘Time Bandits’.

The brainchild of fully paid-up Python members Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin, it’s the tale of an 11-year-old kiddy-wink (Craig Warnock) who goes on a rampage through time and space after inadvertently hooking up with a gaggle of period-hopping midgets. Starting off in the young ‘un’s bedroom and using a handy pocket-sized map of the universe to traverse the highways and byways of history, it’s a story taking in Napoleon, Robin Hood, an underwater giant, God, the devil and an ogre with a bad back. Yup – it’s fair to say there truly is something for everyone in ‘Time Bandits’.

To be honest, though, I can’t help but think this movie should probably be a bit better than it actually is. Although it does contain a fair few belly-laughs, it’s not as consistently funny as I’d expect from a pair of Pythons, lead actor Warnock is a little anonymous at times, and the whole thing really does start to drag a little towards the end (at just under two hours, it struggles to maintain the energy level it kicks off with).

There are, however, some fantastic moments in this flick: the knight-on-horseback exploding through the sprog’s bedroom wardrobe; the wonderful bout of acrobatics as the dwarves escape from a series of precariously-dangling cages; John Cleese – seen here back in the days before he stopped being funny – delivering an absolutely hilarious portrayal of Robin Hood as an upper-class twit. These bits – and, to a lesser extent, a handful of others – are the ones to savour, regardless of your age.

Even though this isn’t the best film of its kind (I could name Labyrinth and The Princess Bride as a couple that are better), it’s still the sort of picture I wish there were more of. It’s a flick made not just for the kids, but for the entire family, and you can tell Messrs Gilliam and Palin have put an incredible amount of care and attention into delivering a final product that both looks and feels right. It might not always work as well as it should, but I for one am glad that they tried.

It's Got: Ian Holm as Napoleon (it’s a role he’s well used to these days, having also played the frog-breathed ruler in 1974’s ‘Napoleon in Love’ and 2001’s ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’).

It Needs: The future, as well as the past. If you could travel through time, wouldn’t you go forward too?

DVD Extras The highlight of this nicely-presented DVD package is the limited edition “map of the universe” tucked inside the cover – although so far I haven’t managed to find any particularly practical use for it. There’s plenty of other stuff too, including a director’s commentary, an interview with writers Gilliam and Palin, cast bios, extra film notes, a scrapbook section, storyboard extracts, a look at the original film treatment, dream facts, production stills, a photo gallery, and one of the more imaginative theatrical trailers you’re likely to come across. It’s a great little package. Version reviewed Time Bandits DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, The Princess Bride

Summary

Sit the whole family down to this Python-made romp through time and space.

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