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‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’ (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 28, 1993

"Robin Hood: Men in Tights" is a pointless and untimely lampoon of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" from the increasingly creaky spoofmeister Mel Brooks. A predictable onslaught of bad taste and worse jokes, it mostly targets not the conventions of action-adventures but the sexual preferences of the merry men, who are variously referred to as "pansies," "fagalas" and "fruits." Brooks fills in the spaces with broadsides derogatory to women and the one interest group you can readily afford to offend on film -- blind folks.

Of course, the real problem isn't that it's politically incorrect -- a state of being truly worthy of a good skewering -- but that it's about as funny as a butt-load of boils. For one thing, Brooks's target isn't worth the arrows. Released more than two years ago, the Kevin Costner movie was its own parody. Further, it lacked such spoof-worthy qualities as pomposity and memorability. "Indecent Proposal" -- now there's a movie worth ridiculing.

Cary Elwes, British-born star of this lumbering caper, takes one clear shot at Costner, who played the role with an American accent. "Unlike other Robin Hoods," Elwes boasts, "I can speak with an English accent." As if plausibility mattered, given the preponderance of anachronistic gags: the "rent a wreck" sign on the hero's Clydesdale, the evil Prince John's remote castle door opener and so on.

In Brooks's reworking of "Thieves," Robin is back from the Crusades, with a Muslim sidekick, Ahchoo, a thankless role well played by Washington native Dave Chappelle. Elwes is appropriately prissy as Sir Robin of Loxley, whose derring-do leads to the downfall of the whiny Prince John (Richard Lewis), the defeat of the tongue-tied Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees) and the release of Maid Marian (Amy Yasbeck) of Bagel from her Everlast chastity belt. Get it: "I now pronounce you Loxley and Bagel."

There are also zany production numbers -- the merry men's chorus line singing "We're men (manly men!) -- men in tights (tight tights!)" -- to fill up the space, plus a slew of celebrity cameos: Patrick Stewart as King Richard, Peter Boyle as the abbot, Isaac Hayes as Ahchoo's father, and Dom DeLuise, who provides the film's rare comic moment as Don Giovanni, a medieval godfather with a tongueless henchman and an incontinent lizard.

In the failed tradition of "Spaceballs" and "Life Stinks," Brooks's humor often hits below the borscht belt. There's the blind Blinkin (Mark Blankfield) in the privy feeling up his Braille Playboy centerfold. And the tiresome Rabbi Tuckman (Brooks) offering the merry men "half off" on a bris. That we get, but some of the Jewish jokes are bound to be inscrutable to gentiles, as when Robin slaps a dead boar on the groaning board and Prince John shouts "Treyf." (Not kosher.) Then again, maybe it's even worse when you get the joke.

"Robin Hood: Men in Tights" is rated PG-13 for sexual humor and comic violence.

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