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Classic Movie Review: 'Time Bandits'

Time Bandits is the classic on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast.

By Sean PatrickPublished 3 months ago 6 min read

Time Bandits (1993)

Directed by Terry Gilliam

Written by Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin

Starring John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Ian Holm, Craig Warnock

Release Date July 2nd, 1981

Published November 28th, 2023

A young boy is lying in bed, fighting off sleep, but seemingly losing the fight. All of a sudden, a horse with a man in armor bursts out of his cupboard and leaps over his bed before riding off into the distance of his bedroom wall which has somehow become an ancient meadow. You naturally might assume that this is a dream sequence, a short nightmare perhaps. But director Terry Gilliam is toying with you. He has the parents come to the child's room immediately following the nightmare and, though the boy's room is suddenly back in order, the parents claimed he was making quite a lot of noise. They tell him to knock it off and go to bed.

The following day, our hero, Kevin (Craig Warnock) is desperately eager to get back to bed. He's ready with a flashlight and a polaroid camera at hand in case the armored horseman returns. The Knight does not return but Kevin's bedroom is once again magically transformed. This time, a group of 6 little people carrying a magical map invade Kevin's bedroom and begin to wreak havoc. These six men are on the run from a God-like entity from whom, they have stolen a magical map of time. The map allows them to travel to places throughout world history where they can steal all the treasure they want.

Naturally, Kevin gets caught up in the time travel chicanery as the bandits take him with them on their journey. The first stop is Italy where they land in the midst of the battle of Castiglione. Then it's off to meet Napoleon in France where they manage to get into Napoleon's inner circle simply because they are the only people Napoleon is taller than. Ian Holm plays Napoleon as a height obsessed goof whose idiocy leads to his new friends stealing his entire treasury. The bandits make a narrow escape with their stolen goods and land somewhere in England in the time of Robin Hood.

Robin Hood is played by some a****** TERF who I will not name and he assumes that the Bandits treasure is their contribution to his cause, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. This sequence introduces a running gag involving Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall as the most unlucky reincarnated couple in human history. In Robin Hood's era they are robbed multiple times and left to die tied to a tree in their underwear. When we see them again, they are also on the brink of death on a historically doomed voyage.

The most notable stop on their journey is Mycenaean Greece where King Agamemnon (Sean Connery) is found fighting a minotaur. Kevin is somehow alone, his bandit friends having been dropped somewhere else. With no other option, Kevin accompanies the King back to his palace where he is seemingly adopted by the King and really takes to the idea of staying in Greece and becoming royalty. That is until the bandits do arrive and steal Kevin away via there magical map for another strange and unexpected adventure.

Eventually the whole thing culminates with a fight against Evil. No, the character's name is literally Evil. Played by the always hammy David Warner, Evil makes the final act of Time Bandits find a new level. Warner's pompous, overpowered villain is the standout of Time Bandits and the fight against him has more life and energy than any other sequence in Time Bandits. Until this final act boss battle I was not enjoying Time Bandits but once Warner came on screen and it was clear we were building toward the end, I got engaged and began enjoying the film.

I'm told that Time Bandits is an adventure comedy but I didn't find any of it very funny. I think it's that Monty Python, throw everything at the wall and hopefully something is funny approach that just doesn't do much for me. Don't get me wrong, I like Monty Python and the Holy Grail and I appreciate aspects of The Life of Brian, but I was never big on the Python TV show or any of their other movie efforts. Time Bandits isn't technically a full on Monty Python movie but it carries a great deal of that sensibility and maybe that's why it doesn't do anything for me.

Time Bandits is also a bit of a watered down version of a Terry Gilliam movie. This is essentially Terry Gilliam making an adventure aimed at children and with its fast pace and goofiness it has an appeal for young kids that eludes a middle aged man like myself. I can admire aspects of the movie, some of the production design is spectacular, some of the ideas are outlandish, but I can't say I like Time Bandits. It's fine. It's just not for me. I didn't laugh until David Warner came on screen and then I am not sure if the laugh was at the movie or with it.

I'm also baffled by the end of the movie. Kevin's parents who are a bit neglectful and self-centered, die horrifically and the bandits drop Kevin there, back at his home, where his parents just died, and they leave him. His parents are gone and the final moments of the movie are a child calling for the mother and father that we've just seen blown to smithereens. What's funny about that? It's dark, it's strange, but it's not funny. It's crude and cruel but it's definitely not funny. The ending of Time Bandits is really much like the rest of the movie, a confounding bit of attempted satire, a joke that you are either in on or left baffled by.

Time Bandits is the classic on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast to coincide with the release of Napoleon. As mentioned earlier, Napoleon is the subject of a rather tame and forgettable series of gags in Time Bandits, quite different from the epic portrayal of Napoleon's life in Ridley Scott's expansive biopic. Do please read my full length review of Napoleon, linked here. And check out the I hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. Each week, myself and my cohosts talk about the newest movies in theaters and at least one, throwback classic film like Time Bandits but hopefully better than Time Bandits.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you've enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!


About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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