Robin Hood: Men in Tights
directed by Mel Brooks
(20th Century Fox, 1993)

Mel Brooks isn't known for subtle film-making.

But Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which so neatly lampoons both Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood (and, in a few scenes, Brooks' own Blazing Saddles), would have been a much better film if Brooks had developed a softer touch. The best example in this case is Prince John's mole -- we all know it's there, and we all know it changes position in every scene. The joke loses power when Brooks feels the need to point it out to us midway through the film.

Oh, who cares?! No one watches a Mel Brooks film expecting subtle humor, and Men in Tights does what it sets out to do: puncture every Robin Hood film ever made with heavy-handed, irreverent laughs.

Cary Elwes, the hero of The Princess Bride, is a perfect choice as this Robin caricature, serving up the heroic archetype with pratfalls and wit. While I was hoping to see Robin Wright, Elwes' leading lady in Bride and the original casting choice for Marian in Prince of Thieves, in the female role, Amy Yasbeck wears the sturdy chastity belt with beauty and grace.

Robin's forest is people with bumbling villagers, but the likes of Little John (Eric Allan Kramer), Will Scarlet O'Hara (Matthew Porretta), Blinkin (Mark Blankfield) and Ahchoo (David Chappelle) keep the merry band intact. The chorus number "Men in Tights" alone is worth the price of a rental. Brooks himself makes a few appearances as Rabbi Tuckman, the Jewish reflection of Friar Tuck, and while the circumcision jokes wear thin after a while, it's still worth a few laughs.

On the Saxon side of the story is Richard Lewis as a party-down Prince John, Roger Rees as the awkwardly tongued Sheriff of Rottingham and Tracey Ullman as the vile witch/cook Latrine (nee Shithouse). Great cameo appearances include Dom DeLuise as Don Giovanni, Dick Van Patten as the royal abbot, Robert Ridgely as the wise-cracking hangman and Patrick Stewart as Sean Connery ... I mean, King Richard.

Art? No. Great comedy? Not really. But any fan of the Robin Hood legends -- as well as anyone who loves to hate the Costner version of the tale -- will get a royal treat out of this Brooks spoof.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 29 September 2001

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