Jan 16, 2015

[Movies] Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

There was a period in my life before I realized that I was gay that I rather avidly followed the careers of Val Kilmer and Cary Elwes. I can't quite explain why and in hindsight I still don't see a good reason for doing so. They both have a certain look about them but I don't think ever found them hot or something. I was just pretty eager to see them in a movie again.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights was an odd confluence of things that I enjoy a lot. It was a Cary Elwes movie that had him in an appropriately dashing and debonair role. And it was a Mel Brooks comedy - and I love his odd, shallow. and distinct brand of comedy. So yeah, I'm quite the sucker for these sorts of movies.

Come to think of it, we don't see good spoof movies anymore. The greater focus seems to be more around toilet humor instead of more clever variations and distortions of movies and stories in something familiar yet different. That sort of says something about the movie industry today.

Synopsis: Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a 1993 comedy written, directed, and produced by Mel Brooks. Other screenplay writers included J. David Shapiro and Evan Chandler.

We generally follow the classic adventures of Robin Hood, born Robin of Loxley (Cary Elwes) as he is first captured during the Crusades and imprisoned in Jerusalem. There he meets Asneeze (Isaac Hayes) and the two work together to escape and free other inmates. Asneeze asks Robin to find his son Achoo (Dave Chappelle). Robin returns to England and eventually finds Achoo. But he also discovers that Prince John (Richard Lewis) rules the kingdom with King Richard is still off fighting in the Crusades.

He also finds his family home in ruins and his longtime servant Blinkin (Mark Blankfield) now blinded. Seeing all the harm that Prince John has done, Robin swears to to find a way to reclaim what has been lost to his family and ultimately seek revenge. To this end he gathers an unusual band of rogues to aid him in his fight including the rather tall Little John (Eric Allan Kramer) and his colleague of sorts Will Scarlet O'Hara (Matthew Porretta). But to get to Prince John, they'll first need to deal with the vile Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees).

Okay, so if you've seen at least one Mel Brooks comedy, then you sort of know what to expect from this movie. You're going to get random musical numbers. You're going to get jokes about Jews. You're going to get a significant number of puns and other bits of low humor. And yet the way that Mel Brooks puts these experiences together is something unique and is what separates his comedies from other similar ventures.

This movie rather closely follows the narrative structure of the 1991 Robin Hood movie. In that sense it starts out feeling like just another spoof of a popular movie since it tries to rehash much of the same elements. But given this is a Mel Brooks movie, he takes things a bit further with strange side elements like how the witch Latrine (Tracey Ullman) really has a thing for the Sheriff of Rottingham or sight gags like how Prince John's mole seems to appear in random parts of his face in every scene.

Cary Elwes is at the center of this whole comedy experience and essentially plays the classic role of the straight man. Everyone is bending over backwards doing rather silly things while he remains generally oblivious to all this. He does his best to maintain the appearance of the classic fairy tale hero, that much idealized version of Robin Hood. And he's totally perfect for the role and an iconic enough figure in his own right as people still associate him with The Princess Bride.

But I'll be the first to admit that Mel Brooks movies aren't for everyone and as much as I enjoy watching this movie, I know a fair number of people who groan when it starts. Not everyone appreciates his particular brand of humor and it can get to be a bit much at times. But still, I enjoyed it a lot and I think more folks have grown to like it with repeat viewings in the home video market.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights is more than just a straight up spoof of the more serious Prince of Thieves movie but it's not quite as full camp as one would expect. And while it's not the greatest Mel Brooks movie, it's still pretty entertaining. Thus the movie gets 3.5 crazy sight gags out of a possible 5.


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