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Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
Takes a real man to wear tights!
I remember when I first saw this movie. I was babysitting for a friend of my mums, and one of the kids suggested we watch it. Thinking it was the frankly laughable 'Prince of Thieves' they were slipping into the video recorder, I was prepared for a few hours of boredom, What I got came as a shock, a pleasant one I'll admit, but still a shock.
Now, you all know the Robin Hood legend don't you? I shall explain a little. Robin Hood was a Saxon criminal, nicking money here and there and giving it to people who needed it, all the while seducing the beautiful Maid Marion, and vexing the Sheriff of Nottingham and prince john. That's the basics! Now, on with the review.
This movie was released in 1993, and is a take off of the whole Robin Hood legend and a p--- take of Prince of Thieves in particular.
Loosely following the legend, Robin of Loxley is first encountered in an Arabic prison during the third century crusades, and together with a 'Moor' as they were called in those days, he executes a cunning escape with a cellmate, Asneeze.
After escaping, Asneeze beseeches Robin to find his son Atchoo, a foreign exchange student in England and look out for him. This Robin vows to do! Robin swims back to England.
He returns to his home, Loxley castle to find it being wheeled away on the back of the cart by Bailiffs, and goes through he sorrowful revelation that his father, dog, cat, and even the goldfish are all dead. Desperate for a familiar face, he finds the family's loyal blind servant Blinkin sitting on the toilet with a Jazz mag in Braille. The hilarity continues throughout the movie.
As with all Robin Hood stories, Robin must thwart the evil plans of Prince John and the sheriff of Rottingham, who are wreaking havoc and charging exorbitant taxes on King Richards's kingdom while he's away.
Those familiar with the movies Mel Brooks has previously directed will have some small idea of what to expect. After all, this is the man responsible for Dracula-dead and loving it and young Frankenstein. All the jokes, which range from visual gags to wonderful witty comments are in exactly the right places throughout the movie, with never more than a minute between laughs.
Cary Elwes (incidentally the only English man to play Robin Hood in a movie), who many of you will know from Princess Bride brings his cheeky grinning twinkle eyed presence to this movie, and does a wonderful job. From outlandish heroic posturing, to a wickedly sexy glance, he really is amazingly funny. And the man looks better in tights than I do!
Richard Lewis is hilarious as the whiny, arrogant Prince John with the ever-changing mole. He gets the sissy-boy behaviour down to a tee, and his whinging American vocalisations are great. All the way through the movie, a mole on his face constantly changes position: it starts on his left cheek, then over to his right cheek, then his chin, then his forehead, before going back to it's original place. This is a subtle joke based on the mole on Alan Rickman when he played the sheriff in Prince Of Thieves
Roger Rees as the sleazy sheriff of Rottingham is marvellously slimy and nasty, and has some great lines throughout the film.
There are some faces here you'll be familiar with from other Brooks films. For instance Robert Ridgely, playing the hangman in this film also played the hangman in Blazing Saddles, another film directed by Brooks. He likes to add subtle references to his earlier films too; with several in this film that die-hard Brooks fans will easily spot. Those who watched History of the World part 1 will recognise the music to the song 'Men in Tights'. Also, when Patrick Stewart arrives and snogs Marion, Mel himself (playing Rabbi Tuckman) utters the line 'it's good to be a king', one of his lines in History of the world.
The whole cast is wonderfully comedic, even those with only a few lines bring a great depth of warmth and humour to them
What makes this film so wonderfully warm and funny in my own opinion are all the improvised scenes. Although there was a script of sorts, some scenes were completely improvised by the actors themselves, such as the scene where Latrine (Tracey Ullman) prays for Rottingham in her bed, and he falls through the ceiling, landing right where she wanted him, which was totally devised and thought out by the two actors.
There are few special effects, and those that are there are small but fun moments of computerised camera trickery.
The soundtrack is memorable, with some very funny songs, and a couple of cheesy love songs. You'll be singing 'Men in tights' or at least humming it to yourself, for weeks.
The rating is Pg, to which I say BAH HUMBUG. There is no bad language in the film, except in the use of double entendre, and one utterance of sh!t, and violence is minimal. In fact I'd go as far as to say non-existent, apart from a few comedy fight scenes.
A great fun film that adults and children alike will enjoy!