[box cover]

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

The Mel Brooks Box Set Collection

There must be something about Cary Elwes' dapper grin and slightly hammy tendencies that makes people want to smack him around a bit, because the poor guy always seems to be getting locked up in dungeons and tortured — whether it's in The Princess Bride's Pit of Despair, Saw's dank basement, or Robin Hood: Men in Tights' Jerusalem prison. At least in the latter case he emerges pretty much unscathed, ready to head home to jolly old England from the Crusades and fight the good fight against throne-usurping Prince John (Richard Lewis) and nasty Sheriff of Rotingham (Roger Rees) — and unlock the chastity belt (er, win the heart) of Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck) while he's at it. All with the help of a few key allies, of course, including hip "foreign exchange student" Ahchoo (a young Dave Chappelle, in his first film role), visually impaired family retainer Blinkin (Mark Blankfield), muscle-bound sidekick Little John (Eric Allan Kramer), enthusiastic Rabbi Tuckman (Brooks), and the rest of the Merry Men. Designed primarily as a spoof of Kevin Costner's earnest, straight-faced Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Men in Tights isn't one of Mel Brooks' best, but even his so-so comedies are entertaining in a schticky, vaudevillian way. Obvious, painfully punny jokes? Check ("A mime is a terrible thing to waste," Prince John cautions the sheriff). Already-dated references to other movies and events? Check ("Man, white men can't jump," Ahchoo comments after Robin fails to leap onto his horse). In-joke references to other Brooks films? Check ("It's good to be the king," "A black sheriff?!"). It's hardly rocket science, but in Brooks' hands, it works well enough. The cast's enthusiasm helps a lot — everyone in the movie seems to be having a great time, and they're all well-suited to their parts. Elwes uses his aforementioned hammy tendencies to make his Robin Hood both silly and charming, recalling Errol Flynn much more than Costner ("Unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent," Elwes proudly declares at one point). With his strong timing and wry delivery, Chappelle hints at the comedy powerhouse he'd become, and both Rees and Lewis seem to get a kick out of playing bad guys (making Prince John a neurotic mess was a clever touch on Brooks' part). If you're already a Brooks fan, you'll get some laughs out of Men in Tights, but newbies should start with something stronger, like History of the World, Part I, The Producers, or Young Frankenstein. Fox brings the film to DVD both as a stand-alone disc and as part of the "Mel Brooks Box Set Collection." The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is good, and the Dolby 2.0 Surround audio is more than up to the challenge of the titular song-and-dance number (other audio options include Spanish and French Surround tracks and Spanish and English subtitles). The extras roster features the theatrical trailer, previews for other Brooks films, and the 26-minute HBO special "Robin Hood: Men in Tights: The Legend Had It Coming." Peppier than many behind-the-scenes featurettes, it offers lots of footage of cast and crew clowning around, reinforcing the idea that everyone had a ball making the movie. Keep-case (slimline case in the box-set).
—Betsy Bozdech

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