A film purely based around the unusual poem by Lewis Carroll which in turn is set within the 'Alice in Wonderland' story. So a sweet classic source is corrupted and transformed into a dank musty set olde England, a time in the middle of the Dark Ages.
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.'
A stunning British cast of all stars and a style so obviously Gilliam mixed with classic 'Monty Python', all very familiar and reassuring when you watch. You know just what you're gonna get and you know its gonna be damn dark, grim, dirty, gross, unique and very creative. Gilliam is so good at creating Medieval/Dark Ages visuals with his sets, costumes, use of light, use of locations and wild imagination, plus without huge amounts of money. Yes it does look very much like 'Time Bandits' and 'The Holy Grail' which does seem a little similar/repetitive, but there are some many nice touches with that bleak eerie atmospheric look that you just can't help but enjoy it.
The characters do feel slightly cliched and again a bit too 'Python-est' but they are all fleshed out so well by the classic cast, helped along with brilliantly cheap yet effective costumes, props and sets. The story is your basic 'Prince Charming' or 'knight slaying monster' type fable, with some wickedly devilish twists. I love how the 'Princess' ('Griselda Fishfinger') in this is a fat ugly female who doesn't like Palin's character at all...until he becomes the famous monster slayer and then she wants his ass. The fact that 'Dennis Cooper's' (Palin's character) father hates him for being a wuss and the way 'Mr Fishfinger' treats him like crap, until he becomes famous. The character names are brilliant aren't they...'Mr Fishfinger' 'Griselda Fishfinger'.
There are other clever distorted fairytale elements here too, the way wealthy town merchants don't wish to help the King fight the Jabberwocky because it brings them much revenue. The local Bishop is happy to let the terror continue as it brings in lots of donations for the church and a local skilled tradesman can't find work so he cuts off his foot to become a beggar. This proves so successful he cuts off his other foot also lol!.
The film does feel a tad dull and strung out through the middle, perks up towards the finale obviously as we wait with baited breath to see the monster. Its all about the monster really isn't it, the quirky bits in between are fun if typically overused Gilliam type stuff but really you just wanna see how this creature will appear.
Some glorious gooey moments throughout are the highlight for me with some really nice makeup/effects using good old fashioned methods. The mauling and eating to death of a lonely pleasant in the woods at the start is fantastic stuff! very simply done but so effective and really gory. Love how Gilliam doesn't shy away from showing the gory remains. The Jabberwocky in the end is also nicely done, kinda like a large [i]Muppet[/i], the old man in a suit routine. Nicely designed but I'm sure will look hokey to some now.
The film is pretty dated now but its amazing how well it stands up today. Everything really does still look good and quite authentic in that typical 'Python-esq' way. I adore the dark gallows humour in this film, I'm sure all 'Python' fans will do so too, its a style that isn't really seen anymore...at least not in comedies. Its all so very 'Monty Python', I realise I say this a lot but it is!. Gilliam never liked how his work is always compared to 'Python', sorry Terry. But kudos for creating a perfect gnarly misshapen fairytale of grimness n gloom.