IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH MEL BROOKS REVIEW: “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” stars Cary Ewles (The Princess Bride, Saw), Richard Lewis (Leaving Las Vegas, Curb Your Enthusiasm [TV series]), Roger Rees (Frida, The Prestige), Amy Yasbeck (The Mask, Pretty Woman), Mark Blankfield (Sweet Evil, Sledge Hammer! [TV series]), Dave Chappelle (A Star is Born , Chappelle’s Show [TV series]), Isaac Hayes (Escape from New York, Reindeer Games), Megan Cavanagh (Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous), Eric Allen Kramer (Good Luck Charlie [TV series], Lodge 49 [TV series]), Matthew Porretta (Desperate But Not Serious, Wolves), Tracey Ullman (Into the Woods, The Tracey Ullman Show [TV series]), Dom DeLuise (All Dogs Go to Heaven, The Cannonball Run), Mel Brooks (The Little Rascals , Screw Loose), Dick Van Patten (Love Is All There Is, A Dangerous Place), and Patrick Stewart (Logan, X-Men ). It is directed by Mel Brooks, who also wrote the screenplay with Evan Chandler and J.D. Shapiro (Battlefield Earth, We Married Margo). The comedic tale of Robin Hood (Ewles), who bands together a group of townspeople to fight Prince John’s (Lewis) men and swoon a princess.
Closing out this marathon is the classic 90’s riff on the classic ye olde tale, “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” Yes folks, a marathon is finishing out with a title such as this. If there’s anything you can give Mel Brooks credit for, it’s his titles. They’re memorable and almost explain everything you need to know, without seeing the movie. So, what’s this one about? Well, as you can see, it tells the story of Robin Hood, and his wonderful men in tights. Everyone wears tights in this, whether the actors are old, young, in shape or not. For the longest time, I thought this film was a musical. Can’t explain why, it just has that ring to it. And while there are a few musical moments (both of which are spectacular, per usual), the majority of this picture is joke after joke, poking fun at all the medieval flicks, particularly Kevin Costner’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” Cary Ewles even calls out the movie, as well as other iterations of this hero, when in one scene he says “unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.” Clever girl. You really got them good there. I wonder just how many “Robin Hood” films have we had to date. There was one released not too long ago with Taron Edgerton and Jamie Foxx. It didn’t do well in the box office, but neither has a lot of the other versions of this classic. So why does Hollywood keep churning them out? Is it still in the pop culture stratosphere? I don’t think so. At this point, everyone should have their favorite version of the tale that they won’t budge on with a new edition. But, what do I know, right? Let’s get back to the men in tights. What baffles me the most with this comedy is how, for the first time ever, Brooks rehashes his old jokes. Not one, or two, mind you, but the whole story is riddled with humor we have seen in all other Brooks films, calling to question the purpose behind it. Was the comedy master lazy? Could he not conjure up any better material? Or was this during a time where he saw it as a reference to the older audiences, with the introduction of it to the new generation? The movie, in a way, is the bridging of both old and young comics. It’s spearheaded by the new kids on the block at the time (sporting a young Cary Ewles and an even younger Dave Chappelle), while also being supported by the legends (Brooks, DeLuise, Van Patten). After watching interviews that were shot during the making of the film, it became evident that Brooks was looking to instill a passing of the torch. Not that he was stepping down (he made one more movie after this one), but that he was trying to prove that his humor could still thrive, even with newer, different talent. In doing so, I guess he thought it’d be clever to wink at his supporters by chucking in a bunch of old jokes. Does it work? Eh. I more so shook my head than anything. To me, reusing old material feels like a cop-out, and because Brooks never stated why he did that (I haven’t read anything saying differently), I can only assume his reasoning, as stated before. That’s not to say this whole film is a rehash. “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” works on its own for the most part, gifting the audience with an adventurous tale full of action, romance, and humor to keep you entertained. At least, for the most part. The first act of this movie was sluggish. The jokes didn’t stick, the pacing was slow, and I was not that invested. It took until Robin Hood got his band of merry men together for things to really pick up. I started to laugh, solid music numbers were involved, and cameos were strung in. The story itself wasn’t anything special; it certainly pulls from other Brooks classics when it comes to character types and scenarios. But at least I walked away with a few memorable moments. Those include Dom DeLuise’s Godfather scene, the Men in Tights dance number, and pretty much anything involving Mark Blankfield’s Blinkin (gotta love the blind man humor). Brooks even had a solid bit role himself, playing a traveling Rabbi. With him on the screen, it felt like the film had even more of a stamp of approval. All in all, the veteran director did as good of a job as you’d expect him to do with this. I was disappointed to find that he reused jokes, and see a bunch of the humor fall by the wayside, but at least he scored with a few good moments. Brooks even made a wise choice in picking Ewles as Robin Hood. His chemsitry with Amy Yasbeck’s Marian was solid, as the two anchored the story well. “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” isn’t really a recommendable picture. Clearly not by Brooks standards. To me, it’s his worst film I have seen, but I don’t think it’s a complete loss. You will be entertained at parts, but by its end, it’s a sub-par release. FINAL SCORE: 64%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: