Saturday, February 21, 2009

Terrifying Family Films. Part 3.

Time Bandits
Terry Gilliam is one of the most creative visions of our time. His style is whimsical, and seriously demented. I enjoy all his films (excluding Tideland) and wait on fan-boy pins and needles for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassas. And no that's not the sequel to Mr. Magorium's Magic Emporium; it's the movie everyone talked about when Heath Ledger died. Heath had already filmed some scenes for the movie when he died. Gilliam changed the entire theme of the movie, casting other actors to fill in as magic "personas" for Heath's character. Gilliam could have scrapped the scenes and started over with another actor, but Gilliam is just too cool.

Now, let's travel back in time and discuss one of Gilliam's first movies, Time Bandits. I stumbled upon this movie while vacationing with my family. I was six, and we were staying at a Holiday Inn 'Holidome' and I was in our room watching TV. I know what you're thinking and no, I didn't watch TV the whole trip. I also watched older kids playing Gauntlet in the arcade - for hours. Anyway, as I channel flipped, I came across some kind of adventure movie; something a little like Willow minus Val Kilmer. I settled in with a soda and candy from the vending machine. I did not sleep that night.

I actually really like this movie and, unlike the first two films I reviewed in this series, other people have seen it. Time Bandits is about a time-traveling group of little people. They carry with them a special time map, guiding them to famous treasures throughout history. They end up in the bedroom of a young boy - awkward - and take him along for the adventure. Now, that's how I understood it when I was a kid. But really these time bandits work for the Supreme Being, and they've escaped with his map. The bandits also battle it out with a guy named Evil. Evil is one scary dude. The young boy, Kevin, is ignored by his parents. They are obsessed with modern appliances and furniture. The movie is actually pretty epic and intelligent in it's view of modern times, or at least 80's materialism.

I watch this movie now with great affection. But watching then, as a little boy, I was quite mortified and bewildered. To summarize, I'll give you a list of the unpleasantries that freaked me out:

1) Everything, from setting to the costuming, is dirty, dark, and dismal. I appreciate the look of this film a lot more now. It's interesting and uniquely Gilliam; the appearance is similar to Monty Python and the Holy Grail. As a boy I just thought these people needed a bath.

2) The actors all talk funny. Be it English accents or mumbles, I had no idea what anyone said.

3) Mona from Who's the Boss is a cannibal.

4) Evil. He looks scary. He can make himself look even scarier. He turns people into animals when he gets mad. When he gets really mad, he blows them up (including a cute shaggy dog). He inflates. His fingertips come off to reveal guns. He turns into a knife-wielding carousel ride. And it's really hard to kill him.

5) Demonic monsters. Evil has a horde of really scary monsters working for him. We are not talking Decepticon scary. These things are straight out of Hellraiser.

6) Floating heads. The Supreme Being appears to the time bandits as a floating head. Imagine the Kryptonian judges from Superman I and II, only this floating head chases you.

7) Kevin is just wimpy and you know something bad is going to happen to him. You know those whiny little brats who are just asking for it? Well, I was that kid.

8) In the middle of the night, your closet could be a portal through which scary stuff comes out and chases you around. Well, I had a closet.

9) The Minotaur.

Mary Kate was really going to upset PETA this year.

10) People die. This brings me to my final point.

Now, normally I'm a strict non-spoiler. I won't give away endings even if you beg and plead because deep down I know you won't appreciate the climax/denouement/ending as much. Whether you're comfortable with this or not, you are in a symbiotic relationship with the movie. You are on a journey together. If you get to the destination without experiencing the journey, you've gained nothing. Even if the movie is terrible, there is just something universal and pure about reaching that end on your own. Would Everest really be as tall if you took a helicopter to the top?

However, Spoiler Alert.

I have to give the ending away in order to fully express how traumatizing this movie is. So look away if you must. At the end of the movie, when all is supposed to be good in the world - Kevin's parents explode. Kevin looks on in curiosity, but isn't particularly distraught. He just says, "Mum? Dad?" Now, if my parents exploded I'd be pretty messed up about it. And honestly, before I'd watched this scene, it never crossed my mind that I may one day be without them. Enter every kid's biggest fear. This scene really bothered me and even when I watch it now I feel icky.

Like I said, Time Bandits is a great movie, and I highly recommend it. Most of what was scary then, is comical now. It's meant to be humorous. But kids don't always comprehend that. So unless they're mature for their age, (Do they smoke pipes and read The New Yorker?) I'd maybe wait until your kids are a little older to let them see it. Unless, you want them to end up like this:

I wanted an ice cream cake!

If the Hollywood Video closed by you, watch it here.


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