Robin Hood: Men in Tights Review

Mel Brooks’ spin on the Robin Hood legend has a sluggishness problem. It doesn’t know when to quit. For instance, one of Robin Hood’s (Cary Elwes) merry men is Blinkin (Mark Blankfield), a blind man. At one point in the film, Blinkin is seen on top of a look out tower, a funny little sight gag well within the Brooks’ tradition.

Unfortunately, everything stops, and the joke is explained to those who may not have grasped this basic piece of humor. It happens multiple times throughout Men in Tights, and with some truly painful jokes. Camel jockeys, literally horse jockeys on top of camels, walk past the camera in an embarrassingly long shot, just in case someone is not observant enough to pick up on it as a background element. Robin Hood asks an audience to lend him his ears, and the groan-inducing visual has everyone pulling their ears off.

Elwes has a charisma as Robin Hood, certainly not far removed from this performance in Princess Bride a few years earlier. While the latter may not have been a spoof on Robin Hood movies, popular in the early ‘90s since Kevin Costner took on the role in 1991, Princess Bride handled everything with a proper sense of humor. It didn’t feel forced, but was instead charming and instantly likeable.

Brooks includes parodies of The Godfather, placing Dom DeLuise in the role of the Don, eerily spot-on too. He even pokes fun at his other work, Dave Chappelle being christened sheriff to which the crowd replies, “A black sheriff?” Looking straight at the camera, Chappelle replies, “It worked in Blazing Saddles.” Brooks even casts the original Blazing Saddles hangman, Robert Ridgely, to take part in the finale.

Men in Tights is hardly terrible, but feels forced, and even repetitive. Sight gags with the cast interacting with the camera crew was done so well in Spaceballs, why repeat it? The few laughs provided here are countered almost two to one with the groaners, a far cry from Brooks nearly unblemished filmography prior.

Movie ★★★☆☆ 

Fox delivers an AVC encode for Men in Tights, and the results are a complete disappointment. Everything carries a decidedly digital, compressed, and dated quality. This is undoubtedly an older master, causing some notable edge enhancement (look at Asneeze around 10:52 mark), blatant artifacting on solid colors, and thicker than usual grain. Not surprisingly, in comparison to the older DVD, many of the same issues exist in the same places despite the resolution increase and newer compression codecs of Blu-ray.

Long shots, including the numerous forest shots, are muddy and lacking definition. Facial detail is a non-issue without a single exception, and textures are hidden beneath a layer of avoidable problems. The king’s earliest costume, with gold trim, is just a soft, blurry mess. Colors are fine, at times a bit too rich considering the bright reds (during the royal dinner) tend to bleed. Black levels are deep, delivering solid if unsubstantial depth, while the contrast remains bright and consistent.

Some print damage is evident throughout, but generally inoffensive. Flesh tones appear slightly warm. This deserves better, although Fox is unlikely to fix it anytime soon since it remains exclusive to the Mel Brooks Collection box set as of now.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

A DTS-HD effort fares slightly better, especially if you love ambient forest noise. Birds are constantly chirping in the surrounds, annoyingly so. However, if it is part of the original audio mix (and there is no reason to believe it is not), so be it.

Separation is surprisingly aggressive throughout, including widely split fronts containing dialogue, swords being clanged together, and also some of that ambient audio from time to time. The rear channels get a workout, from the basic score bleed to heads of lettuce tossed at the heroes during the archery contest. The opening, with flaming arrows being shot around the soundfield offers some wonderful tracking, both side to side and front to back.

Fidelity is fine, a bit flat on the high end, yet inoffensive to most. The subwoofer has little to work with, providing a decent rumble when the castle is being taken as collateral, and when characters fall (such as Little John when he falls off the bridge).

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Extras are sparse, including a commentary from Mel Brooks that dates back to the original Laserdisc. Funny Men in Tights is a fine retrospective, if a bit short at under 14-minutes. An HBO Special from the ’93 is dated and for promotion only, while an isolated score track is presented uncompressed.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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