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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Blu-ray)
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Blu-ray)
Fox // PG-13 // May 11, 2010 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted May 17, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The second most recent entry in Mel Brooks' directorial filmography (he followed it with Dracula: Dead And Loving It two years later in 1995 but hasn't directed a feature since) takes place, as all Robin Hood films should, in England. When the movie begins, the sinister Prince John (Richard Lewis) is going about taking advantage of the population while King Richard (Patrick Stewart) is off dealing with the Crusades. The people need a hero and they find him in the form of Robin Hood (Cary Elwes), who we all know steals from the rich and gives to the poor. The story follows the basics of the Robin Hood myth - he wins an archery contest, he helas out plenty of trouble to the Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees), yes that's right - Rottingham, and wins the heart of lovely Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck).

Filled with a lot of fun cameo appearances - Dave Chapelle, Tracey Ullman, Isaac Hayes, Dom DeLuise, Dick Van Patten, and of course Brooks himself (who basically plays the same sort of role he always plays in his cameos, albeit this time in a Rabbi's garb) - the film is a weird mix of toilet humor and pop culture references. Like Blazing Saddles, the film plays around with a lot of stereotypes but this time with middling success. The picture has moments of brilliance but they're not constant enough to make this one stand out too much. Brooks' script does skewer the silliness inherent in the idea of men running around the woods wearing goofy green tighter, just as the title implies it should, but it also pokes some good natured fun at adventure film clich├ęs, the romantic interludes that so often work their way into these movies. Not so surprisingly, given that it was made in 1993, the Kevin Costner Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves take on the film in particular gets prodded more than once.

Is it worth seeing? For sure, Cary Elwes is great in the lead and he handles the material perfectly, just don't go expecting a classic. Elwes has the right look to play the part and a certain smugness about him on screen that lets him play the part of the cocky and self assured outlaw quite well. He just looks like Robin Hood, and he uses that look very effectively. Likewise, Lewis is fairly well cast as Prince John and seems to be having a good time hamming it up as the villain in the film. He plays the part as a whining, sniveling snake of a man rather than the heavier type of evil that certain big screen villains tend to have, but Lewis wouldn't have been the right choice to play the part any more seriously than he does here. Ullman steals the show as Prince John's personal witch, Latrine, but isn't given as much screen time as she ought to have received and winds up feeling a bit wasted in the film.

Like a few of the Robin Hood films that came before it, Men In Tights works in some musical numbers here and there, the most successful being the film's very theme song. Some romantic ballads work their way into the movie as well, but these tend to fall flat and aren't really all that funny in the grand scheme of things. Brooks was playing things fairly safe with this film, making a movie that kids and adults alike could enjoy. It's mostly sight gags and goofy slapstick and the film never gets as raunchy as some of his R-rated material does despite an onslaught of double entendres used throughout the picture (Little John's insistence that 'it really isn't all that little' being a prime example).

There's enough good humor here to make it work more often than not but some inconsistencies in pacing and humor make it a bit of a mixed bag. Not a horrible film, Elwes is actually able to save it most of the time, but Robin Hood: Men In Tights is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum when compared to some of the other films in Mel Brooks' larger body of work.

The DVD:

Video:

The film arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer that generally looks pretty good. A few overly grainy spots might prove distracting for some viewers but otherwise things look nice and sharp here. Skin tones look good and color reproduction is also very nice and realistic looking. The effects work holds up reasonably well and the improved foreground and background detail, combined with the more impressive textures that are now visible, definitely lets you know you're watching a high definition transfer. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts to note nor is there much in the way of edge enhancement to complain about. Even though some scenes are just a little bit soft in spots, for the most part, Robin Hood: Men In Tights looks quite good on Blu-ray.

Sound:

Robin Hood: Men In Tights gets an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track though French and Spanish dubs are provided across the board. The audio isn't quite as impressive as the video is. There aren't any massive problems to report, everything is clean and audible and easy to understand, but there's definitely been room left for improvement. You'll be able to understand everything easily enough, the levels are well balanced and there aren't any problems with background noise or hiss to note. It's just that it's all a little underwhelming. The film doesn't make particularly good use of the surround fields or really offer a whole lot of bass. There aren't any glaring problems here, but on the flip side, nothing here really stands out

Extras:

This film's Blu-ray release includes two featurettes, the first of which is Funny Men In Tights: Three Generations of Comedy. It's a thirteen minute high definition piece that includes some interesting cast and crew interviews that focus on what it's like to work with Mel Brooks and what it was like working on this film in particular. All involved seem to have known what kind of film they were making and had good time working on the project. The second featurette is an HBO Special called Robin Hood: Men In Tights - The Legend Had It Coming, hosted by Cary Elwes. It's a fairly promotional piece that was obviously intended to get the word out about the film while it was in production, but some of the behind the scenes material that appears here is amusing. It clocks in at just over twenty-six minutes and is in standard definition.

Fox has carried over the old LaserDisc Commentary by Mel Brooks in which the director spends quite a bit of time telling us what's happening on screen as if we weren't able to see for ourselves sometimes. He laughs at his own jokes a lot and unnecessarily ruins a few punch lines for some reason, but he does manage to discuss his reasons for making this picture. He notes why he cast certain actors and actresses in certain roles, shooting locations and studio issues and how he feels about the film in hindsight.

Rounding out the extras the disc are an Isolated Score Track (in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio format), HD trailers for the feature and for a few other Mel Brooks titles (History Of The World Part 1, High Anxiety, Silent Movie, To Be Or Not To Be and Young Frankenstein), animated menus and chapter stops.

Overall:

Like all of his films, Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men In Tights has its moments but this is far from the best of his pictures and you can't help but get the feeling when it's all said and done that it could and should have been much funnier than it actually is. To Fox's credit, they've done a nice job on the Blu-ray release, offering up solid audio and video and providing some nice extra features on top. Brooks completists will want it, everyone else should definitely rent this one first.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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