BnB Shame #4: Robin Hood: Men In Tights

Ever thought about putting your house up for and AirBnB? If so, did you ever give a thought to the judgment potential renters might give you from your DVD collection? You don’t know how it got there. Maybe it was a gift. Maybe you got it at a 3 for $5 sale at Wal-Mart. Or, perhaps worst of all, maybe you actually like it. Welcome to “BnB Shame”.

Exhibit A:

Robin Hood: Men In Tights

Why make it:

Have you heard of this young upstart called Mel Brooks? I tell ya, he’s a spitting firebrand that’s got his finger on the pulse! He’s launched a string of hits like The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and… OK, that’s about all that anyone will ever admit to saying is ever cool about Mel Brooks. Millennials are also changing the way we view Spaceballs, which is mostly loved because no one had really done Star Wars parody before. (Hardware Wars barely counts.)

Look, he’s lampooned Universal monster movies, westerns, sci-fi space operas, Hitchcock films… what hasn’t he gotten his hands on? Well, this Kevin Costner movie is pretty hot. Everything is coming up Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, why don’t we take a bite out of that? We’ll out-Zucker the Zucker brothers!

Why this kinda hits the target:

After seeing so many non-comedic Robin Hood adaptations, I can confidently say that Cary Elwes is the best Robin Hood in the last 30 years. And I’m not saying that just because he can speak with an English accent! Yeah, he’s doing a straight up impersonation of Errol Flynn. But honestly, that’s all anyone ever wanted from a Robin Hood movie in, like, forever. Not the dour Kevin Costner or the glowering Russell Crowe. We just want swashbuckling and derring-do! If the former Dread Pirate Roberts/Wesley ever did a straight up Adventures of Robin Hood movie, I would see it in a heartbeat.

Shoot, Brooks isn’t all that interested in lampooning Costner as much as he is paying tribute to the classic Adventures of Robin Hood movie. He even includes the scene where Robin Hood storms into the hall to confront Prince John (a scene-stealing Richard Lewis) and the Sheriff of Rottingham (a scene-stealing Roger Rees; let’s just say that Robin Hood isn’t the only Prince of Thieves in this movie). Mayhem erupts in the hall filled with balconies and twisting staircases, and it’s all old-school adventure stuff that wasn’t present in the Costner movie.

Also in the “casting coup that should have been considered in a serious Robin Hood movie” category: Patrick Stewart as King Richard. Amy Yasbeck as Maid Marian, too. Alas, only Matthew Porretta (playing Will Scarlet O’Hara) would parlay his experience into further Robin Hood roles, as he would play the title character in The New Adventures of Robin Hood TV series. (I may have seen bits and pieces of this series. The guy in charge of the photos in its IMDB, by the way, seems to have a serious bondage kink.)

Did you say “Abe Lincoln”?:

The humor is super-silly. However, if that comedy is up your alley, you’re going to have a blast. David Chapelle plays Ahchoo, and his dad’s name is Asneeze, for God’s sake! That is so stupid, it wraps around back to being funny again!

Rees plays the Sheriff as generally put-upon and weary (which makes him quite sympathetic). But there are times when he’s prone to weird out of character outbursts. After seeing a plan to eliminate Robin Hood once and for all, he lets out a bug-eyed “WOOOOWWWWIIIEEEEE!” from out of nowhere. (“That’s what I said!” Dom DeLuise replies.) Meanwhile, Richard Lewis makes you realize that you’ve always wanted to see Prince John as a neurotic New Yorker. Then you got Tracy Ullman as the gleefully cackling witch cook, Latrine, who is just delightful with every line reading.

Though the villains literally have all the fun here, the Merry Men get a few great moments of their own. The first being the wonderful “Men In Tights” musical number. The can-can break in the middle, where some dancers do a backflip, remains silly and gleeful. I also enjoyed seeing Mel Brooks kinda singing along with that number at the Kennedy Honors; the tune must mean a lot to him (as he had also used the tune in History of the World, Part I).

The second being a scene I quote all the time: when Little John (Eric Allan Kramer) informs Robin that a toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll, and if he doesn’t pay the toll, that he doesn’t get to eat no rolls. Oh, and that part where he’s drowning in two inches of water. That guy is a secret treasure.

Is immediately dated because of:

For starters, there’s the archery contest, which features the crowd doing both The Chop and The Wave while Robin shoots a Patriot missle. Then there were all the references and backwards caps to early 90’s hip-hop. Not to mention the Arsenio Hall whoo-whoo-whoo’s. And, for course, a Rodney King reference.

THAT SAID: imagine trying to do a Rodney King reference or equivalent these days. I am getting chills just trying to imagine anyone making light of the Trayvon Martin incident. (Though… do we have to imagine? Just read the YouTube comments for Donald Glover’s “This Is America” video.)

As tame as Brooks’ sensibilities are from earlier films, it kinda makes sense that this would be his second to last film he ever directed… and why his last movie, Dracula: Dead and Loving It! was promoted more as a faithful retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula than having anything subversive.

Fun trivia I always mention any time this movie is brought up:

The movie ends with the song “Marian,” which is a spoof on all the Peebo Bryson and Celine Dion and Bryan Adams songs that closed out huge blockbusters in the 90’s. There’s nothing inherently goofy about the song except the context. Given how silly the humor in the movie is, it’s remarkable how subtle the joke is.

Which is why my wife swears that (after watching the movie for the first time with me) she once heard the song being played unironically on the lite rock station in the Philippines.


Potential BnB Renter Assessment:

Of the Mel Brooks comedies, my DVD shelf sports only Robin Hood: Men in Tights and no others, except for Spaceballs, which I did buy mainly because it was cheap. Does that make it better or worse. A potential renter can only surmise that I have terrible taste in film. And boy are they right. If they are renters of a certain pop culture pedigree they may surmise that I am, indeed, a frat bro. Or worse!

Incidentally, I HOTLY anticipated the release of the Men In Tights DVD. Most other Mel Brooks films had already hit DVD, and this was one of the last hold outs. The DVD came out a whole 13 years after the movie hit theaters… only twelve years ago!

A claim I hear oftentimes is that it’s funny when you’re a kid, but then you grow older it’s terrible. I can’t say I ever approached this movie from that point of view. When it came out, I didn’t see it in the theaters because the trailers looked terrible. Oh look, it’s Robin Hood but his Merry Men are all rap guys! Hilarious… for, like, out of touch grandpas.

It wasn’t until I watched it on Comedy Central and laughed my butt off at Don DeLuise’s Don Corleone impression that I thought to myself, “You know what, me? This humor is hella dumb… but I laughed a lot.” Seeing him pull the cotton balls out of his mouth and throw peanut shells at Filthy Luca always gets me.