"Mum! Dad! Don't touch it! It's evil!" - KEVIN, the soon-to-be-orphaned 11-year-old boy, at the end of Time Bandits
Long before I knew who -- or what -- Monty Python was, I was already a fan of the work of half of that venerable comedy troupe's members thanks to a certain subversive children's film called Time Bandits, which was a big hit at the box office when it was released in 1981. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see it when it was in theaters, but thanks to frequent airings on PRISM (a Philadelphia-area premium cable channel that broadcast all the Flyers and Phillies home games, which is why my father insisted on it over higher-profile movie channels like HBO or Cinemax), it was a staple in the Clark household for many, many years. It was only much later when I started reading up on Monty Python in Kim "Howard" Johnson's First 200 Years of book that I discovered that Terry Gilliam, the American-born cartoonist who gave the Flying Circus its distinctive animated links, was also the man responsible for one of my favorite films of all time. Furthermore, it starred two other members of the troupe (John Cleese and Michael Palin) and one of them (Palin) had also co-written the film with Gilliam. If that doesn't make it a de facto Python film, then I don't know what will.
Anyway, whether they did so knowingly or not, Gilliam and Palin (and to a lesser extent Cleese) laid the groundwork for my future Python fandom (some might call it an obsession) and found the nexus between history and comedy that has informed my sense of humor to this day. That's a lot of baggage for a rollicking adventure story about a band of dwarfs in the employ of the Supreme Being who jump through holes in the fabric of time to steal from the rich and give to themselves, but Time Bandits can shoulder it. If it couldn't, it wouldn't be so well-beloved nearly three decades later -- and this isn't rose-tinted nostalgia talking. The film really does hold up and it stands as a testament to the power of imagination and individualism, two of Gilliam's pet themes which run through all of his films and which are embodied by its boy hero Kevin, played by 11-year-old Craig Warnock, who wins my vote for Best Child Actor Ever.