Picks and Pans Review: Time Bandits

UPDATED 11/30/1981 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 11/30/1981 at 01:00 AM EST

A number of Monty Python alumni worked on this film. Terry Gilliam directed and wrote the screenplay with Michael Palin, who's also in the cast, as is John Cleese. There are some Pythonesque plot touches, too: an ogre who has a hard time being terrible because he has a bad back, a devil who wants to get into computers, a God who wears a baggy three-piece suit and has a neatness complex. This is less a comedy, however, than a child's nightmare crossed with The Wizard of Oz, which it openly parallels in many ways. Young Craig Warnock plays a boy thrown in with a gang of dwarfs traveling through time looking for riches to plunder. They run into a lot of grim surrealistic sets, gruesome violence, including someone eating a live rat, and such characters as Robin Hood (Cleese), King Agamemnon (Sean Connery) and Napoleon (Ian Holm), as well as the Supreme Being and the Evil Genius (Sir Ralph Richardson and David Warner). Palin and Shelley Duvall also appear in two separate scenes as skittish lovers, once in medieval times, once on the Titanic. If this sounds meandering, it's more so on screen. The little people who play the dwarfs—Kenny (Artoo-Detoo) Baker is among them—provide the film with some odd flashes of emotion. But the ending is enigmatic and the moral, if there is one, is hidden. This is an enterprising project in free-form cinema; it's just not very entertaining. (PG)

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