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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Time Bandits (1981)



Reviews and Comments

If my ratings were more subjective, I'd deduct another half star, if not a whole star, for personal reasons: although I do not object to comedies involving God on principle, I am averse to the portrayal of God in Time Bandits, which is as a coldly detached buffoon.

But even laying that aside, I still cannot appreciate the movie. It was written by Python veterans Terry Gilliam (who also directed) and Michael Palin. Palin and a third ex-Python member, John Cleese, have small roles. It bears a strong resemblance to Monty Python in style but shows no sign of the artistry and pacing that characterize their best work. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for instance, has a mostly delightful sense of the absurd; Time Bandits is merely absurd. It's creative, certainly. Hey, any movie in which the devil turns into a merry-go-round to defend himself from attacking cowboys is nothing if not creative. But if absurdity is going to play a part in a narrative work, there should be an artistic reason of some kind for it, some unifying theme or mood to give the work identity and purpose. Time Bandits generally feels like a gratuitous exercise. It understands that humor is tied to the unexpected but doesn't get that there's more to humor than just that. When, for example, the ship of an ogre turns out to be the hat of a giant, that is surely unexpected, but it's not funny.

There are a couple of amusing scenes: I liked Cleese's, and I liked another where the gang of bandits escape from a suspended cage. That's about it, though. The rest is a tiresome trial. Time Bandits has an inexplicably devoted cult following, but I am not one of its members.