Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Comedy — Color)

A 20th Century Fox release of a Brooksfilms production in association with Gaumont. Produced by Mel Brooks. Executive producer, Peter Schindler. Directed by Brooks. Screenplay, Brooks, J. David Shapiro and Evan Chandler from a story by Shapiro and Chandler. Camera (Deluxe), Michael D. O’Shea; editor, Stephen Rivkin; music, Hummie Mann; production design, Roy Forge Smith; art director, Stephen Myles Berger; set decorator, Ronald Reiss; costume designer, Dodie Shepard; sound (Dolby), Jeff Wexler, Don Coufal, Gary Holland; sword/fight coordinator, Victor Paul; archery master, Jack Verbois; casting, Lindsay Chag, Bill Shepard. Reviewed at the Mann Plaza, Westwood, July 16, 1993. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running Time: 102 mins.

Robin Hood … Cary Elwes

Prince John … Richard Lewis

Sheriff of Rottingham … Roger Rees

Maid Marian … Amy Yasbeck

Ahchoo … David Chappelle

Blinkin … Mark Blankfield

Latrine … Tracey Ullman

Little John … Eric Allan Kramer

Broomhilde … Megan Cavanagh

Rabbi Tuckman … Mel Brooks

Don Giovanni … Dom DeLuise

Abbot … Dick Van Patten

Will Scarlet O’Hara … Matthew Porretta

Asneeze … Isaac Hayes

Hangman … Robert Ridgely

King Richard … Patrick Stewart

Robin Hood: Men in Tights” marks a return to the wild, anarchic scatological comedies that made Mel Brooks a marquee name around the world. It is a film for his diehard fans and for a new generation who only know Mad Mel from legend. Virtually a primer of all the familiar visual and literal jokes in his bag of tricks, the film is a paean to the obvious that is more delight than retread. It should sail through the summer on steady business aimed at the funny bone like no other film in the market place.

Brooks’ fascination with the denizens of Sherwood Forest is honest if hard to figure. In 1975 he covered the basic territory in the television series “When Things Were Rotten.” Additionally, he has managed to mangle the legend so that it essentially resembles his biggest hit, “Blazing Saddles.” Even purists will find it hard not to like.

For the somnambulists in the crowd, the tale involves nobleman Robin of Loxley (Cary Elwes), who ventures with King Richard to the Crusades. He escapes and returns to England, where he finds the kingdom in disarray in the hands of Prince John (Richard Lewis) and his evil henchman, renamed here the Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees). Adopting outlaw ways, Robin enlists the good country folk to join his cause and rid the kingdom of the scourge. He also finds romance with Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck).

In Brooks’ hands, there are considerable liberties taken with the traditional story. Friar Tuck has been reinvented for Brooks to play as Rabbi Tuckman, and the cast of characters includes a black foreign-exchange student and plenty of anachronistic modern references.

The manic ensemble is grounded by Elwes’ virtually straight-faced interpretation of Robin with a glib assuredness that hits the target dead center. Rather slier is Yasbeck’s Marian, who gets great comic effect from being the girl too good to be true.

The supporting cast features a long list of the Brooks stock company. Best of all are the comic snivelings of Rees’ Sheriff and the haggish Latrine as embodied by Tracey Ullman.

Taste, never a factor to be considered seriously in the filmmaker’s work, is appropriately questionable. There is tremendous glee to be derived from the spontaneity of his outrageous antics. It’s blunted only when he steals shamelessly from past successes.

One size of these “Tights” won’t fit all, but Brooks remains a talent whose audience is amazingly elastic.

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