Time Bandits (1981)

Oh-rye-in-eye-ay, oh-rye-in-eye-ay, oh-rye-in-eye-key-oo-lay.

Ka-lay-oo-lao-ay, oh-rye-in-eye-ay, sya-tay-lee-ay-vee-show!

I saw Time Bandits when it came out and was a bit disappointed, to be honest. Directed by Terry Gilliam and co-written by him with Michael Palin, with John Cleese, and with six dwarves representing each of the ex-Monty Python members, to say nothing of the premise, explained by George Harrison in deadpan on the talk shows (paraphrase from memory): “When God was creating the universe, everything that got done late on Friday afternoon had a few holes in it…”

Well, I expected hilarity. And this is not a hilarious movie. As such, when it rolled around as part of the Laemmle’s Time Travel month (the first week having been Back to the Future, which we had just seen), I was cool on seeing it. The Boy was “hype” though, as the young folk say these days, having not been to the movies since New Year’s Eve, and with The Flower bowing out because she had been under the weather and didn’t want to chance missing out on Sunday’s showing of Singin’ in the Rain, it was just he and I, just like the old days.

Well, except now his girlfriend tags along, too.

Which, if I’m bein’ honest, is a family tradition—and a salutary one, as she is a nice girl.

Not really. Can you imagine?

The Boy and The Girl.

Anyway, after seeing it, I basically forgot about it except for the closing song, “Dream Away,” one of the few memorable moments on George Harrison’s disappointingly forgettable Gone Troppo album. And for reasons known only to God and perhaps George, I have broken out into the nonsense chorus pretty routinely for the past 35 years. (Holy schmap!) Which served me well when the convivial host of the evening, April, mentioned that the soundtrack was supposed to be full of music by Harrison but most wasn’t used and then asked what hit song did come out of this movie.


Anyway, won a coupon for some free popcorn (I have a wallet full of these, because I seldom use them) and a pass, and also the very first issue of Space, a science fiction magazine that had a short run in the ’50s, courtesy of a local comic book shop. None of which gets me to the movie.

I ramble.

I need a freakin’ map to actually get to the movie, y’know?

Which, perhaps unsurprisingly, I liked better than I did the first time: Much better. Akin to Jaws, having the wrong expectations for a movie can really put a damper on the fun, and looking at it less as a zany Python flick and more as a kid’s adventure (and precursor to my much beloved Adventures of Baron Munchausen), I found myself really enjoying the whimsy, and general oddness.

It’s a surprisingly kind movie, except in how it regards the materialistic parents of our hero Kevin (Craig Warnock, who got the job when his brother auditioned—that must make for interesting family dinners—and didn’t act much beyond it), who are literally disintegrated after failing to heed their son’s admonishments vis a vis touching Evil. I’ve always imagined that Kevin would go on to be adopted by Fireman Sean Connery, since Agamemnon Sean Connery had already adopted him, at his insistence. In this particular regard, the movie inverts the fairy tale paradigm, in which the evil element injects itself after the parents have been lost in some fashion or another. (Quick! Name a Disney princess with two parents!)

You know, I feel like it’s worth noting, somehow, that in my life, I have read about far many more materialistically grasping, keeping-up-with-the-Jones-type suburbanites than I’ve ever met. Some step-relatives of mine were preoccupied with stuff-as-status, and I feel like my neighbor has a bit of that going on (though not a lot, necessarily).


Who DOESN’T want The Most Fabulous Object in the World?

That aside, our heroes traipse through a battle with a height-obsessed Napoleon (Ian Holm), wealth redistribution in Sherwood Forest with an oddly insincere Robin Hood (John Cleese), and take a ride on the Titanic—managing to crash into an apparently frequently reincarnated and troubled amorous couple (Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall) twice—before venturing off into the Time of Legends, where they must outwit a seafaring ogre (the recently deceased Peter Vaughn, best known of late for his portrayal as the blind librarian on “Game of Thrones”) and his wife (Katherine Helmond, inexplicably un-made-up but just as cheerfully ogreish) before embarking on a quest for The Most Fabulous Object In The World.

Said object being nothing more than trap laid by Evil, in perhaps the least subtle attack on materialism ever. Evil is played by the great David Warner who, in the late ’70s and ’80s filled the roles that, post-Die Hard, seemed to always go to the late Alan Rickman. I mean, I don’t know: It just seemed like there was a disparity in the caliber of films he was in prior to Rickman’s break-out performance (The French Lieutenant’s WomanThe OmenTime After Time—which is the last movie on this month’s time-travel schedule) and after (The Unnameable II, The Ice Cream Man, Beastmaster III).

Well, whatever. He’s always good, and here he nails Gilliam and Palin’s eccentric view of the Devil: A narcissist who is obsessed with technology and denies that his prison is even really a prison, while randomly blowing up his minions or turning them wholly or partly into animals, and at least a third of whose lines consist of apologizing for the linguistic tics where saying something is “good” is not good when you’re evil, and so you lack any really coherent way to transmit your approval of things.

It’s fun. And the special effects work very, very well indeed. I think because they were never (as I think is always the case with Gilliam) obsessed with “realism”, only that distinctive aesthetic that carries over from Gilliam’s days doing the animated bits of Monty Python. Said aesthetic reaching its peak (in this blogger’s humble opinion) with the aforementioned Baron Munchausen.

Anyway, The Boy, who saw it a long time ago on TV, really enjoyed it. And it’s apparently a favorite of his girl, so that’s probably a good sign.

It's a muddle, theologically speaking.

God orders his minions to clean up the mess that, strictly speaking, He made.

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