– Summary –
Director : Mel Brooks
Year Of Release : 1993
Principal Cast : Carey Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Dave Chappelle, Mark Blankfield, Eric Allan Kramer, Matthew Porretta, Isaac Hayes, Tracey Ullman, Patrick Stewart, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, Mel Brooks.
Approx Running Time : 104 Minutes
Synopsis: A spoof of Robin Hood in general, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in particular.
What we think : Fans of Mel Brooks will find plenty to guffaw at here – if they don’t outright laugh – while modern audiences might feel a little nonplussed. An appreciation for Kevin Costner’s Prince Of Thieves is probably mandatory to “get” all the humor in this one.
Never before has the legend of Robin Hood come in for such a drubbing, as it does in this legendary, and somewhat flat, film from comedic director Mel Brooks.
Brooks track record had been fairly good, with hits like Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein to his name. Unfortunately, for every Blazing Saddles, came a film like Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Much of the humour in this film is now badly dated, although some parts are still quite amusing. Lets’ explore the film a little, shall we?
Back in the early 90’s, Kevin Costner released his film version of Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, while across town, Fox released Robin Hood in the same year, starring the less attractive Patrick Bergen in the title role. Men In Tights attempts to lampoon this fact by having plenty of comedy gold mined from both film versions. While the film riffs fairly heavily on the Costner version, there’s plenty of new material to me found in Men in Tights.
Carey Elwes plays Robin, his cheesy grin and dazzling prowess with a sword winning over the ladies in the film, especially Maid Marian, played with a strange innocent/vixen style by Amy Yasbeck, complete with extra-strong chastity belt. Richard Lewis plays it straight (kinda) as the bug-eyed Prince John, although he’s overshadowed in the comedic stakes by the wonderfully idiotic Roger Rees, hamming up beautifully as the dastardly and incompetent Sheriff Of Nottingham. A young Dave Chappelle plays Robin’s travelling companion Achoo (bless you), the son of fellow former prisoner Asneeze (Isaac Hayes) of Robin’s in Jerusalem. When Robin and Asneeze escape from an Arabian jail, Asneeze asks Robin to take his son under his wing when he returns to England. Robin agrees, and thus, sets of swimming to his homeland. Unfortunately, with King Richard away at the Crusades, the King’s brother Prince John has usurped the throne, along with his right-hand-clown the Sheriff Of Nottingham, and they rule the country with an iron (or perhaps more a tungsten one) fist.
Throw in some glorious cameo’s, particularly one from a superb Dom DeLuise, as The Godfather, and you have a recipe for a star-studded comedy: the end result doesn’t really live up to expectations. The comedy, which is liberally obscure, absurdist, literal and slapstick, is fairly uneven and often, not funny. Well, not funny Ha Ha, only funny He He, it’s like watching a car wreck at times. Mel Brook’s uninspired direction and camerawork is a far cry from other parody films, such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, two films which more than live up their reputations. It’s not even as funny as Spaceballs, my personal favourite Brooks comedy, and although Elwes and the cast try hard (especially Rees, who’s slimy, smarmy Sheriff (with an inappropriate stuttering problem… funny stuff!) is by far the best thing about the film) to generate some comedy, but the script is too reliant on peoples memories of the film’s the movie is parodying: time has now passed, and most of the jokes and references lack the punch they may have once had.
It could have worked really well: had the scripting been a lot slicker, and the editing not quite so laboured. Brook’s version of comedy hasn’t really changed much since his Get Smart heyday, and although you watch a film like this knowing what to expect, your hopes are dashed when people in the opening moments turn to the camera and yell at the director to get lost! Thus the tone of the film is set, and it never really recovers.
There are, however, a few moments that do shine, in amongst the drudgery. The singing dancing minstrels are great, as is the “Men in Tights” song sequence, as the Merry Men emerge from the local forest lavatories. generally, though, the film is a chore to watch, the comedy being as laboured as it is. It lacks the zest and freshness of Brooks earlier work, which is disappointing given the talent on screen trying their hardest.
While it passes the time away in a fairly harmless, innocuous way, Men in Tights never really reaches the dizzying heights you might remember it does. It’s no longer as funny, which is a shame. Men in Tights is boring, clichéd and simply inane, with limp-written comedy and barely a decent chuckle to drag you through it.