Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Directed and co-starring Mel Brooks and screenplay by Brooks, Evan Chandler, and J. David Shapiro from a story by Chandler and Shapiro, Robin Hood: Men in Tights is the story of a royal who returns to Britain as he tries to reclaim his land from an evil prince and his sheriff with the aid of villagers. The film is a spoof on many variations of the Robin Hood story as it play into the legend and put a witty spin on it while making fun of other films as the titular character is played by Cary Elwes. Also starring Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Isaac Hayes, Tracey Ullman, and introducing Dave Chappelle as Ahchoo. Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a delightful yet flawed film from Mel Brooks.
The film is essentially a spoof on the Robin Hood story as it plays with the origin story but also infuse it with anachronistic humor and other quirks. Yet, it does faithfully follow the original story about a man who loses his family home and land upon his return from the Crusades as an evil prince and sheriff have taken over England where they raise taxes. This would force Robin Hood to gather some local villagers to steal from the rich and give back to the poor as well as lead a revolt against Prince John (Richard Lewis) and the Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees) while winning the heart of the fair Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck). The film’s script would put in some quirks such as the fact that Robin Hood is a bit smug as he would go into long speeches that gets old very fast while the Sheriff of Rottingham often speaks in spoonerism. Prince John often sports a fake mole unaware that he has one while the character of Friar Tuck is remained as a rabbi (Mel Brooks).
Mel Brooks’ direction is quite straightforward as it play into this world of medieval times where it was shot in various locations and studio lots in Southern California while it also has recurring gags that often breaks down the fourth wall accidentally. While much of the compositions are simple in the way he shoots close-ups and medium shots as it relates to the way he present characters and situations. There are a few wide shots in the film to establish some of the locations as Brooks is more about presenting the humor and do whatever he can to bring laughs. Some of it doesn’t work such as scene rapping merry men as well as other bits relating to 90s culture that ends up being very dated. Still, Brooks does manage to find way to create moments that are still funny as well as put in bits and references from his own films. Even as it help tell the story while doing whatever he can to make it fun. Overall, Brooks makes a enjoyable though flawed film about a man who revolts against an evil prince while trying to woo a maiden wearing a metallic chastity belt.
Cinematographer Michael D. O’Shea does nice work with the film‘s cinematography from the way many of the daytime exteriors are presented as well as some of the nighttime interior scenes. Editor Stephen E. Rivkin does excellent work with the editing with its stylish usage of dissolves for a musical sequence involving Maid Marian as well as some jump-cuts to play into some of the humor. Production designer Roy Forge Smith, with set decorator Ronald R. Reiss and art director Stephen Myles Berger, does fantastic work with the design of the sets from the prison in Jerusalem to what was once the Loxley castle until it was moved because of owed back taxes. Costume designer Dodie Shepard does wonderful work with the costumes from the design of Maid Marian’s chastity underwear belt to the clothes the men wear including the tights.
Visual effects supervisor Mat Beck does OK work with the few visual effects such as a major sequence involving an archery contest. Sound editors Gary S. Gerlich and Gregory M. Gerlich, with Harry E. Snodgrass, do terrific work with the sound in the way some of the sound effects are heard as well as how the arrows sound when they‘re shot into a target. The film’s music by Hummie Mann is superb for its orchestral-based score that is triumphant and playful while the film also feature some original songs written or co-written by Mel Brooks that are funny though the rap song isn‘t very good.
The casting by Lindsay Chag and Bill Shepard is great as it feature some notable small appearances and cameos from Robert Ridgely sort of reprising his hangman role from Blazing Saddles, Dick Van Patton as the abbot, Joe Dimmick as a Clint Eastwood look-alike assassin in Dirty Ezio, Steve Tancora as a champion archer in Filthy Luca, Brian George as a Jerusalem dungeon maitre d’, Avery Schreiber as a tax assessor, Megan Cavanagh as Maid Marian’s lady-in-waiting Broomhilde, and Patrick Stewart in a brief appearance as King Richard. Other noteworthy small roles include Isaac Hayes as Ahchoo’s father Asneeze that Robin meets at the Jerusalem dungeon, Dom DeLuise in a hilarious spoof of Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone character in Don Giovanni, and Mel Brooks as Rabbi Tuckman who joins Robin Hood in dealing with Prince John. Tracey Ullman is fantastic as Latrine as a sorceress/cook for Prince John who is willing to help him but what she wants is the Sheriff of Rottingham. Eric Allan Kramer and Matthew Porretta are terrific in their respective roles as Little John and Will Scarlett O’Hara with the former being a big but dimwitted ally of Robin Hood while the latter is good with knives.
Mark Blankfield is superb as Robin’s blind servant Blinkin who is a comic relief that often is in some sort of mishap due to his blindness. Dave Chappelle is excellent as Ahchoo as Robin’s right-hand man who would say some funny things but also come up with some inspiring plans. Amy Yasbeck is brilliant as Maid Marian as a virginal maiden who is trying to find her true love as well as the one who can get rid of her chastity belt underwear. Richard Lewis is amazing as Prince John as an evil royal who has a hard time trying to rule England as well as do bad things where Lewis is very funny. Roger Rees is hilarious as the Sheriff of Rottingham as a spoonerism-spouting sheriff who says offbeat things and put himself into very hilarious situations. Finally, there’s Cary Elwes in an incredible performance as the titular character as a royal who is eager to reclaim his land and help the poor while being the Robin Hood that can speak with an English accent.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a witty though flawed film from Mel Brooks. Despite some dated jokes, the film does offer plenty of laughs thanks to a great cast and some funny gags. In the end, Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a stellar film from Mel Brooks.
Mel Brooks Films: The Producers - (Twelve Chairs) - Blazing Saddles - Young Frankenstein - (Silent Movie) - High Anxiety - (History of the World, Part 1) - Spaceballs - (Life Stinks) - (Dracula: Dead and Loving It)
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