4* "Time Bandits" (1981 onto DVD 1999) starts with boy Kevin (Craig Warnock), surprised in his bedroom by six (hard to count because they hardly stand still) dwarves, starting careers as international thieves (Photo 1) with a stolen map of time portals for a multi-period film. Impeccable fitting fitted small costumes, steampunk-scrap style headgear. Hodge-podge vignettes start with historical figures, then descend into nonsense cartoon fairytale. Silly with intense menace, slapstick without cute conde,scension.
Minimal special effects with cuts, angles, black, sounds, models, smoke, giant Lego (I missed that), reverse shots, have great effect, above earliest Star Trek styrofoam alien rocks. The evil lair was a 12'x 25' plastic mini-model. The great escape was immensely clever teamwork. Lots of flashy explosions for the predictable end of pompous villain. Back in the present, the resolution did not resolve for me.
The Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) chases them through drunken Napoleon (Ian Holm), reminds me of the lemur king in Madagascar Penguins, Robin Hood (John Cleese) "crikey, rather, jolly good, cheerio". A hesitant suitor's proposal to Pansy (Shelley Duvall) is interrupted here; reincarnations of the couple recur. But the Evil Genius (David Warner) watches, wants the map, to get silicon technology, and diverts them to where (Morocco) Greek King Agamemnon (Sean Connery - Photo 2) cuts off the minotaur's (costume) head. Flash to a fancy ship, where else would they be but the Titanic (1958 real colorized slowed docudrama "Night to Remember" footage). Kevin loses his Polaroid camera here, but photos survive to save them at the end. A Ogre schooner captain and loving wife "rescue" them and they "escape" as a Giant's hat.
Strangely, the treasure chamber looks like the quiz show (host ubiquitous Jim Broadbent) the parents watch the first night. Lures of advertising? The final hollow-eyed scythe-hand monsters chasing look like the Lord of the Rings Dark Riders; does that mean the small heroes are like hobbits? Most improbable and distressing is the destruction of the resources gathered from all times "ultimate boy's bedroom" - cowboys, archers, knights, tank, rocket-flyer - to merry-go-round melodies. If the present-day fireman who winks is Agamemnon, why doesn't he adopt the boy again? The human asks "why do we have evil", but "something about free will" is no real answer.
I never even noticed the camera often shot from below, "kid" point of view.I saw the plastic covers on the furniture of the materialistic TV-techno-obsesssed parents and on the villain minions, but I didn't link them as "all that is wrong with the modern world". Some symbolism went right over my head. The engaged couple with a unspecified "problem" was supposed to be what adults always say in front of children.
Amazing effects for little money $5M. Midget Kenny Baker was Star Wars R2D2, others Ewoks. Huh. Lead Randall's (David Rappaport) suicide and bearded partner Jack Purvis's paraplegic-accident main reason for cancelling sequel. Mini-models 6" did some stunts. So cutouts and small sets and Welsh castle looked large. The giant was not large, slow film speed and sound effects, miniatures, did the job.
Who takes care of Kevin when his parents die is a girl reaction, apparently. Boys know. When parents don't listen to kids, they die. After surviving danger, we've grown up and can survive. Especially if 007 Connery is guardian angel in background.
Stars: Craig Warnock, Sean Connery, Ralph Richardson, John Cleese, Kenny Bakery, David Rappaport, Jim Broadbent, Shelley Duval