Bottom Line: Mel Brooks looks at “Robin Hood” through a hand-crafted kaleidoscope.
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Robin Hood: Cary Elwes
Also Starring: Amy Yasbeck, David Chappelle, Eric Allan Kramer, Isaac Hayes, Mark Blankfield, Megan Cavanagh, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees
Ahchoo (David Chappelle): “Hey, Blinkin!”
Blinkin (Mark Blankfield): “Did you say ‘Abe Lincoln’?”
Mel Brooks is a genius. I feel like a broken record, earning another vinyl tear every time I write about one of his films. But the fact that he is a genius, is difficult to avoid or miss. I’ve been a fan of his work since as young as ten years old, and he’s easily the greatest “spoofernaut.” The typical modern parody is a mess of pop culture references and “humor” that’s about as core as referencing films in conversation. Such films have nerve claiming to be something of the Brooks oeuvre, in which satire and subtleties are carefully maneuvered, regardless of what film or genre is being mocked. Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a silly, upbeat misadventure. Now keep in mind that prior to this lampoon, the old folklore “Robin Hood” had enjoyed at least thirty silver screen adaptations. Mel Brooks clearly has a lot of fun with the script.
Robin Hood is a bumbling thief in Rottingham. Not Nottingham. Rottingham. Capped, feathered, and portrayed by Cary Elwes, this lad is a fine archer of Sherwood Forest. Brooks isn’t one to interrupt story in his parodies. He’ll add a few tangents into the writing, do away with any pacing, and give a few side spoofs of other flicks, but he’s always stayed quite faithful to whatever he’s horsing around with. Ergo, you know the rest of the story, perhaps by heart. What you may not know is how the characters are handled. His merry men are often questioned for their attire, while they find it highly masculine. “Let’s get out of this ladies clothing,” says Ahchoo (comic Dave Chappelle) near the end of the film, “and get into our tights!” Perhaps this is what a man during the 15th century would believe; how such accuracy contributes the film’s own farcical value, is Brooks’s genius at work.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a medieval festival of ye olde chortles. There are song and dance numbers, but most of them are ultimately forgettable amid the rest of the escapade. No, it isn’t Young Frankenstein, nor is it The Producers. But if Young Frankenstein was memorable for witty punning, and The Producers for its politically incorrect absurdity, this more recent addition to the Brooks Anthology is its own collection of anachronisms. When Robin Hood is asked his King’s whereabouts, he responds, “And which King might that be? King Richard? King Louis? King Kong? Larry King?” Although they’re fleeting (sometimes even too much) and abundant (ditto), there are humorous references to Abbot and Costello, the Hollywood sign, and even the director’s own films. Why yes, the concept of “breaking the fourth wall” is a thickly structured staple in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I, however, shall refrain from spoiling the fashion in which it is churned out.