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Review: Robin and Marian

Updated on November 1, 2011

rating:

3 out of 5 stars

If Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn had a child together, he or she would probably be the best-looking kid ever. I assume that is what was going through the casting director's head when she approached this film.

Robin and Marian shows us a Robin Hood story we haven't heard before. Rather than an origin story, we get an outcome story. This is a welcome approach to a tale that has been told so many times that it could easily become dull.

In other Robin Hood films, such as the 1922 silent film staring Douglas Fairbanks, 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, and 2010's Robin Hood staring Russell Crowe, Robin's adventures begin after he returns from the Third Crusade. We're asked to believe that a crusader who had fought alongside the king in the Holy Land would settle down in Sherwood Forest to frolic with Maid Marian, Friar Tuck and the Merry Men.

In Robin and Marian, we learn that Robin's best-known adventures passed 20 years before the events in the film--before Robin joined the crusade. Robin (Connery) has become disillusioned with the crusade after King Richard the Lionheart (Richard Harris, Dumbledore from the first two Harry Potter films) orders his men to attack a crummy, undefended castle for a treasure that doesn't exist. After Richard dies, Robin returns to Nottinghamshire and resumes his relationship with Maid Marian (Hepburn), who has since become a nun, and his rivalry with the Sheriff, all of whom are older and wiser. Robin's old gang comes back to him, and they dream of rising up against the notorious King John (Ian Holm, Bilbo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings).

The youthful innocence of Robin's adventures in Sherwood and his love with Marian is long gone. We learn that Marian attempted suicide after Robin left her. Robin's experience in the crusade has also caused him to mature. Even though Connery is 45 in this movie, he doesn't look a day over 63. Their love now has the maturity of an old couple, and there is no denying there is real chemistry between Connery and Hepburn, which allows the characters to rise above the material.

The Sheriff is played by Robert Shaw, resuming his adversarial role against Connery that commenced in the 1963 Bond film From Russia with Love. Shaw is grim, but sympathetic, as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and is the best Sheriff of any Robin Hood film.

Robin and Marian is a fun film. With the exception of some heavy-handed dialogue early on in which the characters talk about historical events that would have been well-known in their day in order to educate the audience, the movie is both playful and touching. The film has effective situational humor throughout, using both slapstick and irony.

The scenes between Connery and Hepburn all find the right tone, and the film has a somewhat faded look that helps create a nostalgic atmosphere. However, the fights look clumsy. Director Richard Lester could have taken tips on staging fights from Connery's earlier Bond films. Another technique Lester often employes is to show someone shooting an arrow, cut away, then have the victim with an arrow through his head fall into the frame. This is about as gruesome as the filmmakers could get considering the PG rating (this was before PG-13 was created).

Unlike the most recent Hollywood Robin Hood film, this one doesn't pretend so much to be historically accurate, so I won't complain about historical inaccuracies such as Kings Richard and John speaking English, rather than French, or Robin Hood speaking in a thick Scottish accent.

Movie connections: Sean Connery would go on to play King Richard in Robin Hood: Prince of Theives, as well as appear with Ian Holm in Time Bandits--another film with the Robin Hood character. His son, Jason Connery, played Robert of Huntingdon in the British TV series, Robin of Sherwood.

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