Film Review: Robin Hood: Men in Tights
In 1993, Mel Brooks released Robin Hood: Men in Tights, a loose parody of the heroic outlaw of English folklore as well as films based on the character. Starring Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Dave Chapelle, Tracy Ullman, Eric Allan Kramer, Patrick Stewart, Dom DeLuise, Brooks, and Isaac Hayes, the film grossed $35.7 million at the box office. It was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Outstanding Family Motion Picture - Comedy.
After escaping Khalil Prison in Jerusalem, Robin Hood finds that Prince John has assumed control while King Richard fights in the Crusades. When he returns home, Robin finds that Richard has repossessed it. Vowing to regain his father’s land, Robin recruits Little John and Will Scarlet O’Hara and forms the Merry Men.
The second to last film directed by Brooks, Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a pretty decent film with Brooks able to bring about some very funny and comedic moments from the time the film begins to its closing. Expectations are immediately subverted as the film begins as it makes a prison comedic, namely in how the guards are fairly affable and actually get excited about a prisoner deciding to become a traitor, choosing to think how it’s going to make them look to their supervisors. That's not the only comedic subversion the film has to offer either as it makes Tuck a rabbi who does half off circumcisions instead of a friar, as well as how it depicts Prince John repossessing Robin’s castle instead of destroying it.The film has plenty of physical humor as well. with one example being Blinkin’s blindness and how he flails around when they're all singing "Men in Tights. Brooks also puts in his usual style of humor where a character does something so bizarre that the audience can't help but laugh at the sheer strangeness of it, seen when Robin decides to swim from the Holy Land to England or when Robin shoots the PATRIOT Arrow/
However, in addition to standalone moments, the film also brings a lot of humor in how the whole plot is essentially an extremely silly, albeit well done, Shaggy Dog Story. About halfway through the film, it’s revealed that Robin has the key that unlocks Marian’s chastity belt. However, at the end, Robin defeats the Sheriff of Rottingham and marries Maid Marian. However, as they’re about to consummate their marriage, it turns out that the key doesn’t work. The reason isn’t quite explained, it might not be the real key, Marian may have spent too long in the bath or maybe Rottingham’s attempts to break through the lock screwed up the mechanism. Either way though, the key doesn’t work, making the buildup to the whole story one hilarious anticlimax which is humorously sidestepped by the two of them just calling a locksmith. It’s a humorous tale of defeat that gets even funnier in that they choose to do something they could have done at the beginning.
However, in all the film’s humor, there’s quite a few of Brooks’ usual mentions and breakings of the fourth wall. Yet, they don’t seem to be as well done as the other fourth wall gags that have been present in other films he’s made. The reason for that is probably because they’re very predictable and the jokes they employ have been done quite a few times before. One example is during the archery tournament. Robin loses, comments on the absurdity of the situation and pulls out a script to see what happens next, followed by the entire cast doing so, and finding out that he gets another shot. This can really be compared to Brooks' other films where characters fight so hard that they burst through the set into other films and across the lot or when characters actually watch the film to find out where the protagonists are. The way this film breaks the fourth wall feels lazy or unimaginative. The villagers singing about how their village is always destroyed for Robin Hood films is pretty funny though.
Though it doesn’t break the fourth wall quite as well as the films before it, Robin Hood Men in Tights is still funny and a pretty fun watch. It’ll get three stars and is recommended.
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