Saturday, 23 August 2008

Robin Hood: Men In Tights - Full Review

Continuing my experiment to see if readers of this blog (all three of you... I know you're out there!) would rather I posted my full reviews here directly rather than just linking to them, here is my review of a Mel Brooks film I've seen recently. Not his best, but still a lot of fun. [Voting for this is running until the end of September 2008 - see the voting options at the top right of the blog.]

Robin Hood – Men In Tights is a Mel Brooks’ spoof on the famous English legend of a champion of the people who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. It’s not one of Mel Brooks’ best films, but it certainly made me laugh and there’s a lot to like about it.

Foremost among the things to like is the fact that Robin Hood is played by Cary Elwes. This and the daft nature of the movie give it a somewhat similar feel to The Princess Bride, though this isn’t as good and certainly doesn’t have the same charm. However there is a similar air of whimsical fantasy in Men In Tights. It is a very silly film, and a lot of its funnier bits come from moments of pure surrealism – at the intro and outro we have rap artists break dancing, and suddenly they change to medieval style music and ballet – then back again. Very strange, but also rather funny.

Starting off in prison in the Middle East and having found his entire family home repossessed (and taken away in a quite literal sense!), Robin has only his wits (of dubious value), blind servant Blinkin (who hadn’t realised the castle was gone), and newfound friend Ahchoo [son of Asneeze]

Mark Blankfield plays Blinkin and Ahchoo is played by Dave Chapelle). His main adversaries are of course Prince John (Richard Lewis, who is hilarious) and the Sheriff of Rottingham (groan), played by Roger Rees and also pretty funny. Maid Marion is his love interest of course and Amy Yasbeck is both beautiful enough and has a good enough sense of comic timing to play the role.

The story follows the well-known Robin Hood story relatively closely with the addition of a great deal of tomfoolery and a chastity belt. The chastity belt is important to the plot, for reasons that quickly become very obvious to anyone watching the film (unless perhaps they’re under ten years old). Speaking of which, this is rated PG (UK) / PG-13 (US) for “off-colour humour”. There’s a bit in the way of offensive content here, mainly in the form of a few mildish swear words and innuendo – you’d have to be easily offended to be particularly bothered by it. It’s more bad taste than anything – occasionally the scenes are funny, occasionally not. The bad language is crucial to one joke, not that it’s one of the better ones here.

There are also some other important characters including Little John (Eric Allan Kramer), Will Scarlet O’Hara (Matthew Porretta), Latrine (as you might guess, she is the character for whom a swear word is part of the jokes... you see, she actually changed her name to Latrine...), played by Tracey Ullman; and Patrick Stewart comes in at the end as King John. Mel Brooks is well known for making an appearance in his films, and this is one of his more memorable roles – as a travelling Rabbi selling sacramental wine. It’s a silly scene, but played with such ludicrous enthusiasm that you just have to laugh.

The humour doesn’t always work in Men in Tights and it does sometimes get a bit too crude or stupid to be funny, but I think it’s fair to say that it hits a lot more frequently than it misses. The cast are on the whole good (I particularly enjoyed Richard Lewis’ and Matthew Porretta’s performances), and the dialogue sometimes rises above the general chaos to become extremely funny (and they even have a reference to Blazing Saddles, another Mel Brooks film – perhaps his best – with Ahchoo’s reply to the crowd’s astonished “A black sheriff?”). It spoofs Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves rather effectively and there are definite comedic references to Errol Flynn’s classic The Adventures of Robin Hood. Needless to say, Men In Tights is a lot funnier if you’ve seen those films, or are at least basically familiar with them.

Related Links

Also by Mel Brooks: Spaceballs

See also: My Top Ten Spoof Movies

To see the trailer for Robin Hood: Men In Tights, see my earlier blog post.

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