Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Another of Mel Brooks’ spoofs (like Spaceballs was of Star Wars). Stars Cary Elwes (most famous for Princess Bride, but I also knew him from Lady Jane [he plays Guilford Dudley, husband to Lady Jane Grey, the nine days’ Queen of England between young Edward VI and Mary I]; and Elwes later plays the conniving villain in Ella Enchanted) as Robin, a whole bunch of actors that I should know, but don’t. I do know that Eric Allan Kramer, Little John, goes on to play the dad in Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. It took me a while to accept to watch this movie originally; I’m not that big into parodies. But now I watch it and chuckle.
The film opens with flaming arrows, recalling the flaming arrows from Prince of Thieves. Except now we see the other side; the village that gets burned. The brief intro and back story are given by Merry Men rappers, interspersed with “hey nonny nonny,” (an Elizabethan expression). Similar to Prince of Thieves, we next see a prison in the Holy Land, that they try to run like a hotel. Robin quickly escapes, this time with everyone. His compatriot, Asneeze, asks Robin to look after his son, Achoo, an exchange student in England. Robin kisses the shores of England (again, a call to Prince of Thieves), though there’s a Hollywood-like “England” sign (and Rule Britannia playing). He obtains a horse (muttering “my kingdom for a horse,” a line from Shakespeare) and is now in familiar brown and green garb, including tights; an homage to Errol Flynn’s costume. He comes upon a young lad being beaten by guards and figures it’s Achoo. He unleashes several arrows tied together to chase the guards away.
They walk to Loxley Hall, only to find that it’s being carted away. Robin’s blind servant, Blinkin (again, taken from Prince of Thieves), informs Robin that his entire family, including pets, are dead. But they left him “the key to the greatest treasure in the land,” worn on a cord around the neck. The trio next encounter the Sheriff of Rottingham, who speaks out of order when he gets flustered. It’s rather hilarious. Robin soundly sends Rottingham on his way.
Marian sings a song of finding her true love (well, at least she’s honest about what role she plays in the story). She wears an Everlast chastity belt and is overseen by Broomhilda. Prince John does appear in this film; he and Rottingham interact like John and Gisborne did in Errol Flynn’s film. Mortiana is now Latrine, not quite as creepy; she lusts after Rottinghamn, instead of serving him.
Little John and Robin indeed fight on a bridge (though as Achoo points out, the stream is barely a trickle; they could simply walk across). The staves get shorter and shorter as they keep breaking them, until they’re hitting each other’s knuckles. Robin wins. He then meets Will Scarlett…O’Hara, who’s from Georgia; this was preceded by a joke between Blinklin and Achoo, over the misinterpretation of “Hey Blinklin,” as “Abe Lincoln.” Robin crashes the Prince’s party alone and that scene is a strong takeoff of Errol Flynn’s portrayal: bringing in a wild beast for the feast, charming John and Marian. Why should the people of England listen to Robin to revolt against John? “Because, unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent.” This is calling out Kevin Costner for not having an English accent in Prince of Thieves. It’s been said that he tried, but it came out really bad. Also, I certainly hope Elwes can speak with an English accent; he is English! Rottingham really gets his words mixed up when Marian likes Robin’s flirtations. He challenges Robin to a duel, just them, and Rottingham’s guards. They all line up, knights in armor. Robin swings into one and they go down like dominos. He and his men escape and rally the villagers in Sherwood forest, Robin parodying Winston Churchill speeches from the second World War. They get their uniform: green tights, brown tops, and pointy hats.
The Sheriff asks for help to get rid of Robin. I’m sure it’s a play on the Godfather; not my favorite part; it’s different, it’s funny (I guess), but it comes across like Rottingham and Prince John can’t come up with the idea on their own. Marian overhears the plot and rides to warn Robin. His Merry Men just finished singing about their tights (it is a rather hilarious ditty). He does not really promise to not attend the archery tournament, but he steps away with Marian for some romancing. There’s an overdone song (if it wasn’t obvious, neither Marian nor Robin do their own singing. They hired professional singers). Broomhilde still interferes with them kissing and the ladies return to the castle. The next day, his loyal followers wear dresses to sneak in while Robin wears an obvious disguise, looking like Mark Twain (all these calls to the future…this is why I don’t watch parody movies).
Shock of shocks, Robin loses the archery tournament! Wait, breaking the fourth wall, pull out the scripts. He’s in luck, he gets another shot! This time, he pulls out the big arrow, the Patriot Arrow (based off the Patriot Missle), it pulls some physics-defying stunts and he wins! Rottingham captures him, but Marian offers herself as Rottingham’s wife if he spares Robin. As John states, there will either be a wedding or a hanging.
Robin is strung up, ready for the hangman. Rottingham has the alter set next to the gallows, so Marian will be less inclined to change her mind. There’ a “Hey Abbot!” joke [I have never seen that show, but I know of it] along with historically inaccurate organ and Mendelssohn’s Wedding March [again, this is why I don’t watch parodies]. Rottingham’s first name is Mervin, poor sap. Achoos shoots through Robin’s rope just as Marian has to vow to obey Rottingham. Well, Rottingham will have her, whether they’re married or not. He carries her off and Robin gives chase, rather like Prince of Thieves. “Prepare for the fight scene,” Robin declares; and it turns out rather good. Cary Elwes does have experience fencing from his time in Princess Bride. A little break for shadow puppets and the cord around his neck is cut, releasing the key that fits perfectly into Marian’s chastity belt. Robin unknowingly stabs Rottingham, but Latrine to the rescue, if Rottingham promises to marry her instead. He agrees, then changes his mind when she drags him off.
Outside, Robin prepares to marry Marian, since Broomhilde insisted. Rabbi Tuckman, a play on Friar Tuck, and portrayed by Mel Brooks himself, performs a very short ceremony, but he’s interrupted by a Scottish voice. Sir Patrick Stewart cameos as King Richard, like Sir Sean Connery did in Prince of Thieves, hence the Scottish accent. A few things he has to take care of; John has surrounded his name with a foul stench and thus, all the toilets in the land will now be called “johns.” He knights Robin. Then, it is his royal right to kiss the bride. As Rabbi Tuckman mutters, it’s good to be king. Robin and Marian are wed and happily ever after! (Though they have a bit of difficulty with the key their wedding night.)
Overall: the “Men in Tights” song is funny, I like the dig at Costner for not having an English accent, the sword fighting sequences are good. But, if I’m going to sit down and watch a Robin Hood movie; and I actually want a plot and drama and a story, it won’t be this one. The bad guys are complete idiots (and if they’re bad guys worthy of the caliber of intelligent heroes, they have to have some brains). Marian is simply the swooning damsel in distress. I understand the film is wholly comedic and I also know that I don’t tend to get humor. I’m more of a fan of snark and sarcasm and witty banter. Give me best friends bickering and I chuckle.
So, what is your opinion of parody films? Love ’em, hate ’em?
Next Time: Princess of Theives