Judge Adam Arseneau thinks the tiny, shrunken UMD disc is just the format to watch a film about tiny, shrunken dwarves.
Our reviews of Time Bandits: Criterion Collection (published May 6th, 1999), Time Bandits (1981) (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection (published December 29th, 2014), and Time Bandits (Blu-Ray) (published August 23rd, 2010) are also available.
All the dreams you've ever had—and not just the good ones…
Time Bandits seems a slightly odd choice to release on UMD, given Anchor Bay's reasonable catalog size, but in another way, the decision makes total sense. After all, here is a film that panders to the nostalgia of the PSP core audience, the 18-to-35 age group. Of course, it probably won't be winning any new fans over in such a truncated format…only die-hard Terry Gilliam (Monty Python, 12 Monkeys, Brazil) fans and nostalgia buffs need apply, I would think.
Having "borrowed" a map from the Supreme Being, a group of entrepreneurial and mischievous dwarves hop from historical event to historical event, stealing everything not bolted firmly to the ground, hopping through "time holes" dotted across the world. When they accidentally end up in the bedroom of a small boy named Kevin, he becomes a reluctant-yet-enthusiastic accomplice across history, running into everyone from Napoleon (Ian Holm, Lord of the Rings) to Robin Hood (John Cleese, A Fish Called Wanda) to King Agamemnon (Sean Connery, 'nuff said). Unfortunately for Kevin and company, their thieving antics have attracted some unwanted attention. Not only does the Supreme Being want his map back, but so does the Evil Genius, embodiment of all that is foul. He hopes to use the map to escape his exile and take over the universe; not the kind of person you want to have access to such a map, really…
Out of Terry Gilliam's canon, Time Bandits is not a film that I knew extremely well as a child, I admit. I certainly remember it fondly, but it failed to hold the allure and charm in my pre-pubescent brain that it held for so many others. Nevertheless, I still get a neat feeling of whimsy when I throw Time Bandits into my PSP and take it for a spin around the neighborhood. On an unrelated note, I strongly discourage walking around watching movies on your PSP, unless you enjoy walking into things, e.g. old ladies, moving cars, safety guard rails on the pedestrian walkways of suspension bridges, etc. You fall off a bridge and get water in your PSP? That's not covered under warranty, buddy. Don't come crying to us.
Years later, the film holds up surprisingly well. Gilliam brings the characteristic Monty Python tongue-in-cheek wit to play, along with his inventive and elaborate set designs to craft an impressive fantasy world that looks every bit as impressive as it did 25 years ago…and that's saying something. I love the dialogue in this film, the sequences of absolute absurdity come to life, like Evil blowing up a dog, then smiling and declaring himself a reasonable man. Cracks me up every time. It may not be Gilliam's finest example of his cinematic prowess, but find me the person who can sit through Time Bandits without grinning like a bloody fool.
Time Bandits has a hazy dreamlike characteristic about it, a trait which does not endear itself to the small PSP screen, as it gives the film an unusual level of softness. Still, the film views well enough, especially when the brightness is increased to the maximum setting, which helps counteract the murkiness. It has reasonable colors and detail for a film its age, the transfer totally free from visual defect or damage, which is always nice. However, the image is far more washed out than most films on the UMD market today, which makes for an inconsistent viewing experience, especially in mobile conditions on-the-go. The presentation appears to be a slightly letterboxed transfer, a barely perceptible trim truncating the native aspect ratio of the PSP (1.78:1) into the correct aspect ratio for the film (1.85.1).
The sound isn't terrible, but you will need to boost the output via the PSP menu settings in order to coax a decent volume out. Bass response is reasonable, but you can forget about using the internal PSP speakers for this film. Not going to happen. But throw a nice pair of headphones on, flip to the giant sequence (for example) and settle in for a booming portable presentation. One of the best parts of the film, the aggressive orchestral score, sounds quite magnificent transcribed to UMD…thank goodness.
With sales figures strong, extra materials are rapidly becoming the norm for UMD discs, and the total absence of anything complementary on this disc is a definite check in the negative column. Not even a subtitle track on this one. What gives? Anchor Bay can do better than this. Hopefully, they learn from this early release and beef up their future UMD titles with something of substance.
Not much to say here for fans of the movie: if you are a tried-and-true fan of Time Bandits and it gives you that special nostalgic feeling in your chest, then what could be better than a portable version to cart about? Failing that, there is nothing really spectacular about the disc to recommend it one way or the other, especially over technically superior films now readily available to watch on your PSP.
It goes without saying that you should not buy a UMD movie—any UMD movie—if you have never seen the film before. Go see it on DVD first, and decide if you love it enough to purchase a portable version. But for Gilliam fans, Time Bandits is your only stop in port, as none of his other films are available on UMD at this time.
Of course, you can wait until February 2006 for Monty Python and the Holy Grail on UMD. I'm just saying.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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