By Paul Trandahl,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Fun fantasy has a bit of bite.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Throughout, the movie advocates reading and an appreciation for both the factual and mythological aspects of human history. Its dwarf protagonists address themes of tolerance for those different from oneself.
Violence & Scariness
Considerable cartoonish violence. A man's arm is ripped off during an arm wrestling match. The Evil Genius blows up many of his dimwitted minions. A firing squad executes prisoners. A hungry dwarf captures a rat and eats it. One can see the feet of previous victims hanging from the ceiling of an Ogre's ship. There is an attempted suicide. Kevin's home is burned down and his shallow parents are blown up at the movie's conclusion.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that kids will see a good deal of cartoonish violence in Time Bandits (a man's arm is ripped off during an arm wrestling match, a hungry dwarf captures a rat and eats it, severed feet hang from the ceiling of an ogre's ship, etc.). Two characters are blown up at the end, but they aren't depicted as very nice people. Also there are scary creatures, and depictions of a supreme being and his nemesis that some will find objectionable. The bandits are pursued by the Supreme Being, i.e., God, who seems to have created the world in a slapdash manner. They also encounter the Evil Genius, or Devil. Throughout, the movie advocates reading and an appreciation for both the factual and mythological aspects of human history. Its dwarf protagonists also address themes of tolerance.
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What's the Story?
In TIME BANDITS, young Kevin is fascinated by history, but his materialistic parents are too busy planning their dream kitchen to pay attention. When a group of bickering dwarves appears in Kevin's bedroom, he's in for the history lesson of his life. The dwarves are time bandits, former employees of the Supreme Being who have stolen his map of time and space and plan to loot history of its greatest treasures. Kevin joins them through a time hole, and is soon rubbing shoulders with such luminaries as Napoleon, Robin Hood (John Cleese), and Agamemnon (Sean Connery), as well as giants and ogres. The Evil Genius, the Supreme Being's nasty rival, lures the group into his Fortress of Ultimate Darkness and steals the map so he can destroy the world. Now the time bandits must recover the map and prevent armageddon.
Is It Any Good?
This movie is an enjoyable romp meant to appeal to the adventurous child in everyone. Directed by "Monty Python's Flying Circus" animator Terry Gilliam, Time Bandits takes its young hero on an absurdist tour through various times and places in history. A considerable vein of black humor and irreverence runs through the movie, giving it a sharp edge not often found in kids' fantasies.
The film's look is and special effects are impressive and imaginative, but the plot and characters are somewhat inconsistent and the satire is frequently harsh. Older kids may find the black humor hilarious, but it's questionable viewing for the very young. Still, the film's virtues easily outweigh its flaws and it's a perfect movie for those who prefer their fantasy with a bit of bite.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how humor of this nature, somewhat satirical and dark, often has very serious things to say. Did you detect any serious themes behind Time Bandits, such as questioning authority, the nature of the universe, or the nature of time?
- In theaters: November 6, 1981
- On DVD or streaming: January 27, 2004
- Cast: John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall
- Director: Terry Gilliam
- Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: parental guidance suggested
- Last updated: October 7, 2022
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