Time Bandits (1981) starring Craig Warnock, David Rappaport, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Mike Edmonds, Jack Purvis, Tiny Ross, David Warner, Sean Connery, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Peter Vaughan, Katherine Helmond, Shelley Duvall directed by Terry Gilliam Movie Review

Time Bandits (1981)   3/53/53/53/53/5

David Rappaport and Craig Warnock in Time Bandits

Have Dwarves Will Time Travel

For those who have never experienced a Terry Gilliam movie it is just that an experience of quirkiness, of strange and dam right weird. As such it has to be said that a Gilliam movie can be great for some and just wrong for others which brings me to "Time Bandits" a movie loved by Gilliam's fans. Now there is no doubt that "Time Bandits" is a Gilliam movie with a story which sees a young boy whisked off on a time travelling adventure by a group of dwarves with eyes on being international robbers. Just that fact alone makes "Time Bandits" different and quirky and that is just the surface of a barrel full of the weird and the strange. But whilst "Time Bandits" is imaginative, is funny and quirky it has one issue and that is the actual storyline which sees the Evil Genius trying to get his hands on the time hole map ends up quite dull even weak.

Young Kevin (Craig Warnock) has a wonderful imagination and one night as he is dropping off to sleep suddenly finds his room being invaded by dwarves coming from his wardrobe. Before he knows it he is off on an adventure of a lifetime as he ends up travelling through time, meeting the likes of Napoleon (Ian Holm - Chariots of Fire), Robin Hood (John Cleese) and King Agamemnon (Sean Connery - Robin and Marian) before having to do battle with the Evil Genius (David Warner) who wants the map of the Time Holes for his own evil plans.

Sean Connery and Craig Warnock in Time Bandits

The actual storyline to "Time Bandits" has two sides and for me the first half is equally the best as we enter the world of Kevin, a sort of 70s but where certain elements such as game shows and the automated kitchen is embellished to futuristic proportions. What makes this first half so good is that it is both crazy and imaginative as we watch Kevin taken to the past by these time travelling Dwarves where he encounters various figures from history such as Napoleon, King Agamemnon and Robin Hood. It's purposefully and totally stupid but so much fun especially as we have the Dwarves cunningly robbing the people from history before jumping to another time with Kevin in tow if he wants to be or not. But at the same time as being daft it is aslo quite clever especially the 70s with futuristic embellishments.

But then you get the second half which whilst continuing this sense of whacky adventure the story focuses on the Evil Genius getting his hands on the time map. Visually it is as good as the first half but from a storyline point of view it seems mundane as the Dwarves and Kevin not only have to escape from the Evil Genius but get the map back. It's not quite as simple as that, we have a theological depth thrown in where we have the Supreme Being and the Evil Genius but where as the first half had been amusing the second half borders on the too strange and in doing so losing the humour.

But despite this tale of two halves "Time Bandits" is a visual treat be it the way Kevin first experiences time travel from his bedroom to the various people he meets along the way. You can't but help laugh at Ian Holm's version of Napoleon and that is followed by John Cleese giving us a very gentlemanly Robin Hood. But of course the most fun comes from having Sean Connery as Agamemnom, a role almost played seriously yet the slightest touch such a wink making it funny. Throw in great sets, great costumes and a bunch of diverse dwarves and there literally is so much going on in each scene that a second viewing is required to fully appreciate Gilliam's brilliant eye for the different.

Now whilst "Time Bandits" may focus on Kevin and the Dwarves adventures through time it is the various cameos which end up being what you remember. And alongside John Cleese, Ian Holm and Sean Connery there are fun performances from Katherine Helmond, Shelley Duvall, Michael Palin and a fantastic David Warner as the Evil Genius. That doesn't mean that Craig Warnock as Kevin or the various who play the Dwarves are bad; in fact David Rappaport as Randall the leader is seriously funny but "Time Bandits" ends up being entertaining for the cameos rather than the main actors.

What this all boils down to is that "Time Bandits" is very typically Terry Gilliam and as such some will love it whilst others will think it's just weird. Whether you enjoy it or not it is impossible not to be impressed by Gilliam's eye for a great shot and his imagination although for me it seems like his imagination ran dry during the second half of the movie.