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Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

February 10, 2011

VERDICT:
8/10 Deirdre Duffys

Might not be the most obvious story in need of spoofing, but nevertheless, it had me laughing like gangbusters.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights pretty much takes everything that Kevin Costner with his American accent and Bryan Adams with his Canadian power ballads tried to make awesome in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and harpoons it all from top to bottom. You know the story, it’s been done ad nauseum, but this time around it’s actually aware of the fact that the remakes probably should have stopped with Disney, and that, dear viewers, makes all the difference.

So as with most movies that I thought were awesome in third grade (lookin’ at you, The Mask), my expectations upon revisiting this a full 18 years later as a grown-ass man were understandably low. One of those movies that all my friends thought was hilarious and I just played along with fake laughter in the cafeteria because admitting that it had gone clear over my head would inevitably ruin any chance I had at someone trading their Lunchables with me. Not a good first impression to go off of. But it’s not just this movie, it’s actually Mel Brooks movies in general that have unfortunately gotten less and less funny with each new viewing.

Before you write me off completely for that statement, Blazing Saddles is still great, but Spaceballs doesn’t quite do it for me anymore, I don’t think I laughed once the last time I watched Young Frankenstein, and I thought Spamalot was a hell of a lot funnier than The Producers when I saw ’em on Broadway. I don’t know, maybe I need to go through a Mel Brooks marathon one of these days to lay down the final verdict on things, but until I recently revisited Men in Tights, it had been a sad, unfortunate state of affairs. Please don’t hate me for this paragraph.

So there I was a couple weeks ago hanging out with friends, I’ve got a handful of beers in me, I’m feelin’ super, and after trying to settle on a movie in the Netflix Instant catalogue for what always feels like three hours, we start this baby up and I proceed to laugh my knickers off for the next 104 minutes.

The thing that did it for me is that this one just goes way outside the fourth wall. Speeches are interrupted by cameras crashing through stained-glass windows, Teamsters hanging out off-set get cut down by the Sheriff of Rottingham (HI-OH!) in the middle of sword fights, characters pull out scripts to make sure that Robin gets a second shot at the archery contest, and thanks to a time machine that no one seems to mention, references to Nike pumps, Everlast chastity belts, Abe Lincoln, Mark Twain and Don Corleone are there for the taking, too.

Although due to gags that fall flat like Rottingham’s penchant for not being able to structure his sentences properly or even some of the Merry Men’s rap songs, it’s not quite a home run from beginning to end, but some of this shit really is gold. Prince John’s constantly-moving mole, someone yelling “Hey, Abbott!” like Lou Costello when an actual Abbott of the Church walks by, Little John “drowning” in two inches of water – that kinda stuff had me howling and I was not expecting to howl at all here.

And on top of all that we’ve got Isaac Hayes as “The Painted Man”, Asneeze; Dave Chappelle as his son, Ahchoo; Richard Lewis as Prince John; Tracey Ullman as a witch who changed her name from “Shithouse” to Latrine; a cameo from Patrick Stewart as King Richard; a scene-stealing Dom DeLuise as the English version of Don Corleone; Mel Brooks himself as Rabbi Tuckman; Amy Yasbeck who does a fine Maid Marian; and Cary Elwes as Robin who’s just as charming as he was in The Princess Bride, just that he’s funnier this time around. Awesome cast if I do say so myself, too bad it didn’t really do much to launch Chappelle’s and Lewis’ careers though.

Folks, in this day and age where spoofs are equated with Vampires Suck, Meet the Spartans or any of one the shitstorm masterpieces that for some reason have gotten those fuckheads Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer filthy rich instead of blacklisted from planet Earth, it’s nice to see random and irreverent done right for a change. Although I did go through a brief phase in middle school where I thought Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was the bomb, and of all the times I watched it, I never really thought it was unintentionally funny or setting itself up for something like this. Thinking I probably need a refresher course on that one to see if I was just jaded by Costner’s powermullet to notice the flaws, but it wasn’t until Russell Crowe took on the mantle that I thought Robin jumped the shark. Anyway, for a movie that I don’t think anyone was really asking for, it’s a solid spoof and totally achieves what it sets out to do.

Alright, the booze might have helped, but I had a ball with Robin Hood: Men in Tights in a way that I haven’t had with a Mel Brooks movie in ages. Don’t ask me justify the verdict against other Brooks comedies that carry legendary reputations far great than this does, you won’t get the answer you’re looking for and I honestly can’t really explain it myself. All I know is I had fun, I laughed way more than I thought I would and I’m generally a sucker for anything involving Dave Chappelle and/or Richard Lewis. There’s your 8.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2011 8:09 am

    Like pretty much every Mel Brooks film (apart from Blazing Saddles) Men In Tights leaves me cold. As a kid I think this one gave me some mild amusement but I won’t be hurrying to see it again.

    • February 10, 2011 2:29 pm

      Yeah, that was the impression I got the first time I saw this way back when, but I don’t know what it was about that changed over the years ’cause I thought this was damn funny. Won’t knock anyone for feeling otherwise, but I hear ya’, man. At least we’ll always have Blazing Saddles.

  2. Duffy permalink
    February 10, 2011 9:39 am

    Can I ‘like’ your review status today!? Thanks for the review, you just made my day! Also, glad our drinking habits got this an 8.

    • February 10, 2011 2:31 pm

      Hahaha. Sorry for the delay on this one, didn’t realize there was a demand until a couple days ago. Glad you liked it and thank you dearly for opening my eyes to the glory of Men in Tights.

  3. HermioneO permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:28 am

    You didn’t laugh once at Young Frankenstein? REALLY? Mel Brooks is kind of uneven for me. But Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles are kind of consistently funny for me and my generation, except for a few girls who lump them in with the Three Stooges as a “guy thing.”

    • February 10, 2011 2:34 pm

      Correction: When I was a kid, I laughed my ass off to Young Frankenstein. But the last time I watched it in college, I hardly laughed once. Believe me, I am sad about it. And if you’re saying that The Three Stooges are hilarious and aren’t just a “guy thing”, you rock. Rarely gets funnier than The Three Stooges.

  4. February 10, 2011 2:38 pm

    YES. This movie is sooo funny.

    Best part- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QjZR-jI7J4

  5. February 11, 2011 1:24 am

    I’m in the middle of watching Blazing Saddles. It’s one of those movies that I swear I’ve seen all of – or at least all of the best parts of – though I don’t know if I’d ever before sat down and watched from start to finish. I’m pretty underwhelmed at this point, though the smartness of the script alone puts it way above the spoofs we know of today. Even if I’m not rolling with laughter, at least it’s about something. Anyway, what I meant to say was that I’m more or less with you on Brooks’ movies – they don’t keep me laughing much like Holy Grail does, to name a contemporary of Saddles.

    Prince of Thieves is absolutely unintentionally funny, but the thing is, it’s also pretty awesome. Get past Costner’s mullet and lack of a discernible accent and you have Freeman kicking ass and hamming it up, along with Rickman really hamming it up in the best way possible. Plus that dude from The Crow and the crazy witch and…

    • February 11, 2011 9:10 am

      Yeah, it’s no Holy Grail (then again, what is?), but it’s still on a completely different level from the shit we have at our disposal today. I feel like a lot of folks really love Mel Brooks though. Just doesn’t do it for me all the time.

      And I totally need to re-watch Prince of Thieves after that comment. Although you did forget to mention Christian Slater, the best actor of all-time.

  6. February 11, 2011 12:28 pm

    Men in Tights has its moments, but its no Blazing Saddles. I loved Young Frankenstein back in the day, but it has been years since I’ve seen it.

    “You’ve lost your arms in battle…but you grew some nice boobs.”

  7. February 11, 2011 4:41 pm

    I just saw this recently and I loved it. Please come back to films Chappelle!

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