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With: Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Avery Schreiber, Dave Chappelle, Tracey Ullman, Mark Blankfield, Isaac Hayes, Megan Cavanagh, Eric Allan Kramer, Matthew Porretta, Patrick Stewart, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Robert Ridgely, Mel Brooks, Steve Tancora, Joe Dimmick, Chase Masterson
Written by: Mel Brooks, J.D. Shapiro, Evan Chandler
Directed by: Mel Brooks
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for off-color humor
Running Time: 104
Date: 07/28/1993

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Zingers and Arrows

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Nestled between Kevin Reynolds' Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) and Ridley Scott's Robin Hood (2010), Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) actually looks like a champion, like the small film that robbed from the two soulless blockbusters and gave a hero back to the people. Certainly it has the best Robin Hood of the three films: Cary Elwes is far more dashing and jubilant than either Kevin Costner or Russell Crowe, and he seems born for the role, rather than shoehorned into it.

Unfortunately, Robin Hood: Men in Tights pretty much stops there. It's a minor entry in Mel Brooks' filmography, though it does represent something of an upswing in his later period. It feels relaxed and confident, rather than desperate and eager-to-please. It has some good jokes, but it also recycles many old jokes and never really finds a rhythm, or a high point. At times it seems to have too much plot and too many characters and at other times, it doesn't seem to have enough.

During the Crusades, Robin Hood (Elwes) is captured and imprisoned. A fellow inmate, Asneeze (Isaac Hayes), helps him escape if Robin will pledge to look after his son, Ahchoo (Dave Chappelle). Back in England, Robin discovers that the selfish Prince John (Richard Lewis) has assumed the throne while King Richard is gone. Robin teams up with his family's blind servant, Blinkin (Mark Blankfield), as well as Little John (Eric Allan Kramer), and Will Scarlet O'Hara (Matthew Porretta), and vow to take down the evil Prince. Along the way, Robin falls in love with Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck), who wears a locked, metal chastity belt that can only be removed when she meets and marries her true love.

We also get the famous archery contest, and some daring last-minute rescue attempts. While Brooks is very good at not dropping his comedy in order to wrap up plot threads, he's equally not very adept at building a plot. So the usual thrills and excitement and joy that come with this story are just not that prevalent, and the jokes that replace them (like a Godfather parody and a hip-hop Greek Chorus) are pretty hit-and-miss. Fortunately, Elwes makes up for a great deal with his delightful, twinkling performance. Although Brooks' jokes can sometimes pull Robin outside the material, Elwes manages to deliver it all with the same kind of joy and aplomb; he's the first and only Robin that deserves comparison to Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn.

Overall, though Robin Hood: Men in Tights is easygoing and amiable, it just doesn't appear as if Brooks is trying, like he has nothing at stake and nothing more to prove. It would have been interesting to see what he could have done with this legend in his younger days. But at least he leaves us with another of his amusing musical numbers, "Men in Tights."

Fox released Robin Hood: Men in Tights last year as part of a Mel Brooks Blu-Ray box set, and now it has been released as an individual Blu-Ray. It comes with a director's commentary track (recorded years ago for the laserdisc release!), an isolated music track, an original HBO special, and a brand-new HD featurette on the making of the film.

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