Why can’t parents just know that they have to expose their children to every kids friendly movie when they are young? I feel gipped that I hadn’t seen Time Bandits before until a couple of days ago. I mean what were my parents thinking? Why didn’t they know that I would develop an interest with film to the point of obsession? It’s like they were not fortune tellers or something. I guess it is too late to turn the dial back and force my eight year old self to sit through this film. (Thanks a lot mom and dad for not inventing time machines… another thing you failed me at)
I say those statements above because I think I would have found this film a lot more enjoyable back then than I do now. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the gaping plot holes, the breathless momentum that left me not very invested or the embarrassingly dated special effects. Instead I would have been caught up in all of the different fantasies this young boy experiences. When I saw this film, it reminded me of a film that I did see when I was too young to have a discerning taste. Jumanji was a film that my babysitter loved to put on in order to get me and my babysitting friends to calm down. Looking back at this film in my adult state, I am aware of the same faults and problems that plagued Time Bandits. But those problems never registered with me even when I had watched it ten or twenty times in a row. (It was better than the other movies she had. Just because I was young did not mean that I loved the Teletubbies or Barney. I was not stupid) Therefore I can still watch Jumanji and get a pang of nostalgia that washes over me that obscures those same problems.
I think my main problem is the treatment of this film as if it was a large Monty Python sketch. Monty Python sketches work because they are smart, funny and bring up intellectual ideas and concepts that you wouldn’t normally see in a comedy sketch. This does not translate well to fantasy fluff aimed at children. You have to have a strong main character that goes on structured adventures. Adventures that it makes sense for a child to have. You cannot cast a boy who is basically a piece of wood propped up by funny dwarves. You also can’t jump to one adventure and then mid adventure jump to another one. It just does not make sense. I will give you an example. For some reason, the boy jumps into Greece just when a king is about to defeat a bull-headed man. This king befriends him and takes him to his kingdom. The setting and the character meat are rife for rich story telling. The king has an odd tension with his queen, the boy wants a father and the king is willing to become that, the boy takes out a modern camera to photograph ancient artifacts come to life, and many other things. However Terry Gilliam takes the start of all of these different plot lines and throws them away so quickly that you barely have time to figure out the king is played by Sean Connery. It is a waste of time for me to be in this world if you are only going to tease me with plot. This is far from the only time this same thing happens in the film.
What I have always loved about all the Terry Gilliam movies I have seen of his is his sense of whimsy. His ideas are bursting with creativity. It just never seems that he can reign in his whimsy into a coherent plot line. When he can it is amazing, but when he can’t it is just a muddled mess. Maybe he needs to join up with a collaborator like he did in his Monty Python days. I think then we will start to see some amazing films from this man. Until then beware of him and beware of this film.