Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Robin Hood Men In Tights

Its pretty much agreed upon that late period Mel Brooks is a pretty sad thing. And yet, Robin Hood Men In Tights alone among them has a bizarrely affectionate following around film fans my age. It’s a film carried up from the elementary school yard, and chances are if you solemly explain to a twenty something “That if you don’t give no tolls we don’t get no rolls.” You’ll get a smile.

I on the other hand have never had a real like for this film leaving my completely irrational and unexplainable affection for Dracula Dead And Loving It. Shut up. Look there’s this scene where Leslie Nielsen has a dream that he’s free from his vampirific curse. He takes a walk in the park, eats some chicken and drinks some wine; when all of a sudden the laws of his vampirism abruptly and violently reassert themselves. Bursting into flames pathetically clutching his chicken leg and goblet of wine Nielsen delivers what I can only describe as the greatest “Oh Shit” face I’ve ever seen.

But like I said maybe because I saw it past the prime age of eight, maybe because there is only room in my heart for one shitty Mel Brooks movie, I’ve always considered Men In Tights to be Brook’s worst movie.

The film opens with a scene that must rank with Brook’s best for the truly unexpected punchline alone.(“Every time they make a Robin Hood Movie they burn our village down.”) Thankfully before one’s expectations can get too high The movie comes along to help us realize what it does wrong.

Simply put Mel Brooks attempt to appropriate hip hop culture is painfully unfunny. I mean I can’t describe to you the effect that a seventy year old Jewish man’s idea of B-Boys delivering the theme song did to the part of my brain that feels joy and laughter. It beat it with a rubber hose and left it bleed in the corner.

This basically continues throughout the movie. There are a few chuckles, with the amount of gags Brooks throws at the screen there has to be. But the hit to miss ratio is absurdly high. For every feeble joke that gets a half hearted chuckle, like Robin’s blind servant feeling up the Venus DeMilo, weeping that his master has lost his arms in battle, but complementing him on the nice new boobs, there are a dozen that are literal groaners, that make that desperate gag sound like Lubitsch.

Elwes can be a sly comic talent, but this is not his best work. Still he gets a few moments in particularly when his target is Costner’s hamminess. Still for the most part his work is overly broad (even for, y’know Mel Brooks) and he desperately wants to be in on the joke. The great Brooks clowns always where desperate to maintain there dignity in the worst of circumstances, Elwes just wants to look as silly as everyone else.

Of course, the other standout in the cast is the young Dave Chappelle. Unfortunately fans of his later work will find little to love here. He’s young and unconfident and the material that Brooks gives him is just plain weak.

Look if you’ve got a soft spot in your heart for this one, chances are you’ll still enjoy it. Like I said I’m hardly one to throw stones on this account. But if you’re first impression of Robin Hood Men In Tights was less then positive. Its the correct one.


Franco Macabro said...

I purchased this one the other day out of nostalgia, but I didnt laugh much through out. Your review is pretty spot on, sometimes its funny, sometimes it isnt. Most of the time it isnt.

Cant believe this is the same guy who made the masterpiece that is Young Frankenstein! Now theres a funny movie!

Bryce Wilson said...

I hear you Franco. The tone of his late films is so different from those of his early ones its hard to believe they were made by the same people.