I’m gonna be real honest here, it’s been about four days since I’ve watched this movie and I really don’t remember too much about it. For a Mel Brooks work, this is a rather disappointing characteristic of ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS. As a result, this review will probably be shorter and less developed than previous entries by me (which will either be a godsend to you readers or a dispiriting update; either way I’m not really sure I have any readers as of this writing, but if someone is reading this besides my parents, you have been warned).
As disappointing as ROBIN HOOD is, I must state that even after my less than stellar feelings towards this 90’s parody/spoof, Mel Brooks still reigns supreme as a filmmaking legend (even outside of the realms of comedy, Brooks displayed fearless taste in his producing ventures ala the heartbreaking THE ELEPHANT MAN). Even so, with a script concocted by Brooks, J.D. Shapiro and Evan Chandler, this latest outing in parody sets its sights around the tale of Robin Hood (Cary Elwes), the original lovable rogue (historians don’t bother me if I’m wrong [actually, please do, I’m looking to read more stuff nowadays]) who steals from the rich and gives back to the poor on his quest to take revenge on the suspiciously Richard Lewis-looking Prince John (Richard Lewis). Honestly though, I don’t remember much stealing from the rich and giving back to the poor antics much as there was just scenes of Elwes ridiculously voguing for the camera and kicking the shit with a variety of bit players.
Either way, story doesn’t matter much here in this slapstick world of rapping merrymen and chastity belt wearing Maid Marians (played by Amy Yasbeck). This leaves the brunt of the work to fall on the film’s you know, comedy, and for the most part the comedy isn’t too sharp or funny, especially for a Mel Brooks film. Not to say that ROBIN HOOD is an exercise in droll anti-comedy, it’s not; in fact, on the surface this film looks and moves and nearly talks like all of Brooks’ other comedy heavyweights but the bite and creativeness found in those earlier features are mostly absent, relying instead on obvious pop culture references and (at this point) rehashed Mel Brooks schtick. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Brooks play stereotypically Jewish traveling salesman/Rabbi will always slap a smile on my face, but the case of diminishing returns becomes disappointingly apparent here. The point is, when the best joke of the film comes in the opening credits (and it’s a pretty good joke), you got a lot of problems on your plate.
While most of the jokes lack a ferocious vava-voom, it’s hard to fault most of the performers who all put a game, stupid face on and commit to the shenanigans at play. Elwes in particular, more or less evolving his cheeky if endearing performance in THE PRINCESS BRIDE, becomes the main standout committing to his over-the-top hero, delivering lines with appropriate braggadocio and putting in one of the best “look-at-the-camera” performances to be found in a parody film. In an ironic result, I could easily see Elwes being the best portrayal of Robin Hood, in a pulp kind of way. In tow, Mr. Lewis (who I’m not too familiar with outside of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM) does his thing here, playing Prince John with his (I assume) easy-going, blue collar kinda guy energy which is probably the film’s second best joke. Elsewhere, most of the bit players (ranging from Tracey Ullman to Dom DeLuise to even Dave Chappelle) do their best to carry their one-joke characters.
Throughout my viewing experience (when not checking my phone aimlessly), I wondered to myself if this was well-received back in those wild and crazy 90’s days. I know my dad never mentioned this movie when he would rave about Brooks films, but then again my dad couldn’t always be trusted (See: his thoughts regarding the quality of “Red Wine” by UB40). Whatever it was, a film like ROBIN HOOD shows how hard it is to do good parody as even the masters of the craft can get lost in their own jungle of jokes.