ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS
It is not surprising that the legend of Robin Hood, not to mention the various film versions of said legend, were finally sent up in a spoof. Robin Hood: Men in Tights is more a spoof of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (a film that despite my own enjoyment of it already played somewhat like a spoof) than the overall Robin Hood mythos. While the film has a few really funny moments, too many sight gags and obvious set-ups ruin what could have been a fun romp.
Our Robin of Loxley (Cary Elwes) finds that the Crusades aren't all they're cracked out to be. He leads a mass escape with help from Islamic prisoner Asneeze (Isaac Hayes) before returning to England. Asneeze asks Robin to find his son Ahchoo (Dave Chappelle), who according to Asneeze is 'an exchange student'. The eager himbo agrees.
Once back home, he finds his castle literally repossessed, with only the blind servant Blinkin (Mark Blankfield) remaining.
At this point, I wonder where Winkin and Nod went to, but I digress.
Robin is determined to restore his lands, but he'll have to face against the evil Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees), who is in cahoots with the very neurotic Prince John (Richard Lewis). Robin finds Ahchoo and then builds up more of the Merry Men. There's Little John (Eric Allan Kramer) and master knife fighter Will Scarlet O'Hara (Matthew Poretta), who says he's from Georgia.
That seems to be the height of Men in Tights' wit.
This 'uprising' is a consternation to Rattingham and John, and the latter needs the help of Latrine (Tracy Ullman), who looks like a witch but is really the cook. She's got the hots for Rattingham, who in turn has the hots for Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck). She in turn catches sight of Robin and it's instant love, even if her chastity belt plays havoc with her desires.
Rattingham hires Don Giovanni (Dom DeLuise) to use a hitman to kill Robin at an archery contest, but while that plot goes wrong Robin is still captured. Marian agrees to marry Rattingham in exchange for his life.
Obviously, Rattingham isn't going to keep his end of the bargain, but with a little help from the Merry Men and Marian's lady-in-waiting Broomhilde (Megan Cavanaugh), along with Rabbi Tuckman (co-writer/director Mel Brooks), it will be a final confrontation where our lovebirds end up happily ever after.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights does have funny moments, but oddly they come from the musical numbers versus the actual story. Both the Sherwood Forest Rap and the title song are hilarious. The song Marian, Marian that Lady Marian sings is surprisingly tender and sweet. It makes one wonder why there hasn't been a straight Robin Hood musical.
The best performance is that of Elwes as our cocky and somewhat dimwitted Robin, who comes across as an eager young man at times blissfully unaware of his idiocy while maintaining an air of confidence. He is on the joke without overplaying the joke. Elwes' Robin comes across as both funny and earnest, someone who means well but is also clueless.
Yasbeck too plays things with a more deft comic touch, aware that this is a spoof but not being broad. Rees rises above what he's given as Rattingham, especially given that his constant malapropisms soon disappear.
There were funny moments and lines in Men in Tights. Chappelle's nod to Malcolm X was funny, as was DeLouise's dead-on The Godfather imitation. Lewis' crack that Latrine's meal "looks like a Seder at Vincent Price's house" was also amusing.
However, the rest of Men in Tights flounders, primarily due to Brooks and his co-writers Evan Chandler and J. David Shapiro. They consistently call out that 'this is a movie', and while a little meta never hurt anyone, they do it so often that you end up waiting for the next 'oh look we're in a movie' bit to drop. Whether it's when a window is broken to reveal a "crew member" or Dick Van Patten's cameo as a church Abbot hitting the camera with his staff, the film loves to point out itself.
As a side note, the Abbot commenting "I hate that guy" when someone sounding suspiciously like Costello calls out "HEY ABBOT!" is a funny in-joke.
Other throwbacks, not too good. Broomhilde's quest to keep Marian pure looks like a throwback to Spaceballs' 'virgin alarm'. Worse was their penchant for signaling the jokes a mile ahead. When, for example, Robin and Little John are fighting with quarter-staffs, I already knew they'd end breaking them again and again. When the heavyset Broomhilde was ready to jump onto her horse, we all knew what would happen next.
Men in Tights is also, curiously, a bit dated. You get Arsenio Hall Show shout-outs and the Atlanta Braves' Chop, which while I found amusing I'm not sure hold up well. Finally, it throws things in and doesn't do anything with them. Will Scarlet O'Hara comes from Georgia, but they never do anything with it. The 'Ahchoo' bit wasn't that funny the first time round, but the response of 'bless you' gets worse until they mercifully stop it.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights has some funny bits and surprisingly good songs. It shows that Cary Elwes could have played a great straight Robin Hood or a comic Robin Hood. However, all that isn't enough to make the unintentionally funny Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves more enjoyable than the allegedly intentionally funny Robin Hood: Men in Tights.