Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Movie Review

I have to say that I probably have seen the parody of this film more times than I have seen the movie itself. Somehow, through quirks of fate (namely, a WPST-NJ promotion), I got a free copy of the tape of Robin Hood: Men In Tights and have put up with watching it time after time. So, in the sense of cosmic justice, I figured I should actually watch the movie that spawned the film that has given me so many laughs that it probably didn't deserve.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is yet another example of Hollywood taking a famous story and making it Hollywood-compliant. In other words, the original story is still there in some bizarre form (he robs from the rich and gives to the poor), but we're missing Prince John, and Robin Hood's not speaking in a British accent. I can accept Robin Hood not speaking in a British accent if he happens to also be an animated fox (Disney's version, which took up some of my childhood hours), but when Kevin Costner takes a stab at it I just approach the entire movie from that point on with a sort of incredulity.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves takes the basic story and warps it. This time, the Sheriff of Nottingham (played by Alan Rickman) is the big bad guy, out to usurp the throne of King Richard while he is away. The poor aren't being overly taxed, and thus the tax collector plays no part in the story. Nottingham uses a witch that looks like Cher just after the bandages are removed from plastic surgery to help his ends. Apparently, the witch served as a nursemaid to Nottingham, which gives a final explanation to why we as a viewing public have been forced to death with the mythos of his anal-retentive personality for all of these years.

That sidebar dealt with, Robin of Loxley has been away at the crusades, and still has a thing out for Maid Marian (who is played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and often wields a dagger in the film). In this version we also get into a semi-Freudian struggle with Loxley and Will Scarlet (Christian Slater), which serves to give the only plot twist to the movie. Also of note is that we get a buddy-comedy sort of atmosphere between Azeem (Morgan Freeman) and Robin, which makes the entire movie feel like we're watching Lethal Weapon with swords instead of 9mms.

Although I will alternatively laud writers John Watson and Pen Densham with doing something new with a story that has been fairly wrung-out-to-dry, I will not congratulate them on the drab dialogue. Likewise, director Kevin Reynolds is able to handle to fighting sequences rather well, but still cannot figure out that he is supposed to help the actors in their work.

The only actor who actually seems to take his job in this film seriously is Morgan Freeman, who is able to act like exactly what he should feel like in the film: a fish out of water. A black person in a country currently at war with black people, Azeem is able to handle the racism that is thrown at him without losing his cool, due to a level of unbelievable patience. Morgan Freeman conveys this well. Kevin Costner, on the other hand, had better stick to making baseball movies.

I cannot offer much in the way of consolation for this movie's shortcomings. Nor can I truly laud the few talents which it has, which include the same joy just about anyone gets from watching a movie that they know is terrible.

Now Robin Hood comes to a special edition version on DVD, a remastered two-disc affair with all the trimmings. Two commentary tracks discuss the 12 minutes of extra footage worked into the film (they're hard to really notice, though the film now surpasses 2 1/2 hours), plus a bazillion archival documentaries and interviews -- including Bryan Adams performing the theme sing "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" at an Irish castle. Bulls-eye, baby!


Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 1991


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