Robin Hood: Men in Tights (Blu-ray)
Directed by Mel Brooks
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 104 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: May 11, 2010
Review Date: May 13, 2010
Mel Brooks had already gone the Robin Hood route with the unsuccessful (but somewhat fondly remembered) television series When Things Were Rotten in 1975, so his 1993 satiric take on the Sherwood Forest archer wasn’t exactly fresh fodder for his parody machine. He was likely inspired by a rash of Robin Hood films in the early 1990s, especially Kevin Costner’s roundly criticized but very successful Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991. Sadly, the humor isn’t very inspired, and Brooks runs though all of his old gags yet again plugged into another of his cinematic burlesques.
Upon returning from the Crusades, Robin of Loxley (Cary Elwes) is disgusted by the outrageously high taxes that the people of Sherwood are having to pay to the treacherous Prince John (Richard Lewis) and his enforcer the Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees). Together with his motley band of Merry Men – Little John (Eric Allan Kramer), Ahchoo (David Chappelle), Blinkin (Mark Blankfield), and Will Scarlet O’ Hara (Matthew Porretta) – the group battles its way through many adventures while Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck) and her lady in waiting Broomhilde (Megan Cavanagh) cheer from the sidelines hoping for a victory for the men in tights.
Attempting to capture satirical lightning in a bottle again after the twin triumphs of Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks at least makes an effort to create a movie parody based on a template of a familiar story. This Robin mixes plot elements and satiric swipes on both the Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner versions of the story. He’s only marginally more successful with this attempt than he was with the television series, however, filling the familiar saga with all manner of obvious anachronisms (an exposition done in rap, references to everything from Everlast sporting goods to Abbott and Costello) and protracted gags that are often just minimally amusing or are rehashes of jokes from previous films he's reusing. You know he’s padding the film when no less than four musical numbers are inserted into the mix, even if three of them are rather tuneful and enjoyable enough on their own (though they have nothing to do with the Robin Hood legend at all). It all seems rather tired getting from the beginning to the end despite the hard work being put in by all of the principal cast.
To his credit, Brooks has hired a wonderful slate of actors who play the comedy straight making what works very funny indeed. Especially enjoyable are Cary Elwes, a perfect and perfectly dense Robin Hood, the hilarious comedian Mark Blankfield as Robin’s blind manservant, the brilliant Roger Rees who does a magnificent Basil Rathbone doppelganger as the deceitful Sheriff, and, in the film’s most ridiculous but hilarious bit of parody, Dom DeLuise as a very Marlon Brando-ish Don Giovanni which has nothing to do with Robin Hood but everything to do with joviality. On the other hand, Tracey Ullman doesn’t wring much humor from her overdrawn witch-like crone Latrine, and Amy Yasbeck is very pretty but little else as Maid Marian. Patrick Stewart has a nice surprise cameo, and you’ll see many of Brooks’ regular gang (Dick Van Patten, Chuck McCann, Ronny Graham) in very small roles.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. While not reference quality, the image is nicely sharp and clean with vivid color without the greens of the forest being too intense and with the flesh tones wonderfully natural and appealing. Black levels are also nicely delivered. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a repurposed lossless audio track that makes the most of the original Dolby stereo surround audio track (also included as an audio selection). There are a generous number of ambient sounds placed around the soundfield and the Hummie Mann music score channeled beautifully to the fronts and rears giving the entire enterprise a very expansive sound.
The audio commentary by Mel Brooks has been carried over from the original laserdisc release of the movie. Though he’s guilty as usual of describing what we’re seeing on screen or setting up jokes before they happen (as if we can’t see the set-ups for ourselves), he does occasionally add some nuggets of information about the production process. Brooks, however, has never been the best commentator for his films.
“Funny Men in Tights: Three Generations of Comedy” is the 13 ¾-minute making-of featurette with cast and crew (and some friends of Brooks) offering opinions of what it’s like to work on a Mel Brooks movie. It’s in 1080p.
“HBO First Look: The Legend Had It Coming” is the 26 ¼-minute HBO introduction to the movie hosted by star Cary Elwes as he takes us on a tour of the set and speaks with many of the actors taking part in the filming. This is presented in 480i.
Hummie Mann’s fun-filled music for the movie can be better appreciated with the isolated score track which the viewer may choose to engage.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 1 ¼ minutes and is in 1080p.
The Mel Brooks trailer gallery once again appears with High Anxiety, History of the World Part I, Silent Movie, To Be or Not To Be, and Young Frankenstein.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Like all Mel Brooks-directed films, there are certainly some laughs to be had with Robin Hood: Men in Tights. The laughs are often obvious and usually more silly than inspired, but for those who like his style of humor during the latter period of his directing career, this Blu-ray release shows it to its best advantage.