Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) — Not as good as you remember

“I lost. I lost? Wait a second, I’m not supposed to lose. Let me see the script.”

Justin’s rating: Yes, leave me alone as well, Mel Brooks!

Justin’s review: Mel Brooks has a way of making well-loved movies that, to be honest, aren’t really that great. Hey! Stop throwing things at me! Sure, movies like Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs and Blazing Saddles are certainly entrenched as eternal comedic classics, but Brooks comes from a comedy era where only the most base and broad humor was permitted. If you’re the type who likes fart jokes and extended running gags and characters mugging for the camera, then you probably idolize the man. If you require a bit more sophistication and clever wordplay, then his films are a desolate wasteland to you.

Or let me put it this way: Mel Brooks’ movies always make me feel like there’s a slightly daffy old gentleman sitting behind me, constantly nudging me and going, “Do you get it? Do you get it? Isn’t that funny?”

For the record, I’ve always wallowed in the middle of the Brooks spectrum, liking a few of his movies a lot and disliking the rest even more. What’s most surprising is that I honestly remembered Robin Hood: Men in Tights as one of his better comedies, a memory which fell apart once dashed upon the rocks of cruel reality when I bought a discounted copy the other day.

Admittedly, one of the biggest enemies of this film was nothing Mel could prevent: time. Although Men in Tights is a loose satire of many Robin Hood screen legends, about 90% of it is a direct parody of the Kevin Costner opus Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, one of 1991’s big event films. So, a parody showing up two years later was just timely enough to make everyone chuckle at all the clever “twists” on the Costner version (Morgan Freeman’s Azeem became Dave Chappelle’s Ahchoo, and so on).

Now, Prince of Thieves is still a watchable film, mostly because of Alan Rickman’s incredible performance as the over-the-top villain, but it’s long since left the pop culture of its ’90s birthplace. Ergo, Men in Tights immediately loses most of its cultural relevance, and all of its zings! become zorks.

Granted, there are still some good things going for it. This was Chappelle’s first film, and aside from the embarrassing early ’90s rap scene that he brought to it, he has fun being the blackest brother in the whole damn forest. Cary Elwes generally acquits himself as a generic Robin Hood — the man could always do comedy well — but we have to endure a whole lot of exaggerated faces and lines. There’s also a really funny blind guy who makes bold strides forward to represent the serious struggles that his disability presents. Did you know that blind people cannot tell the difference between a statue and a real person? ‘Tis true!

I particularly could’ve done without the musical numbers — why do comedies keep thinking musical numbers are funny? They’re usually not, in the same way that funerals are usually not that chuckle inducing.

Before the end credits arrive, however, you’ll have to wade through a bargain bin of mediocre jokes. Mel kind of fell flat in the ’90s, with stinkers like Dracula: Dead and Loving It and Life Stinks. Men in Tights is where he started to unravel to reveal that he used most of his good jokes about a decade beforehand.  At least this all made me laugh as a kid. Now… now I just blink as the salt from my tears stings my eyes.

Didja notice?

  • Patrick Stewart! Have you ever sold out!
  • “It’s good to be the king”
  • Prince John’s mole keeps moving around
  • The Malcolm X parody
  • The hangman in this film is played by Robert Ridgely, who played the hangman in Blazing Saddles

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