Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery and it seems that wherever there are serious films, there are parodies. While some hit the mark in lampooning their peers, many others just seem terrible and I for one don’t understand why these ones keep getting made – honestly, who needs a fifth Scary Movie? However, amongst the dross you can find some gems including Blazing Saddles, Hot Shots, and Airplane! Another one which has not been seen by many is Robin Hood: Men in Tights, a pretty silly film that produces the laughs mainly thanks to its enigmatic leading man, Cary Elwes.
It’s a parody of Robin Hood, so there is no need to go into the plot. The main film that director Mel Brooks had in his sights when scripting was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, a re-telling of the classic tale heavy on the drama and action, so if you’ve seen that you’re well-prepped for some of the cleverer jokes in this ridiculous comedy. Brooks really does try to squeeze out every last drop of comedy from each scene, each one is packed with things that might tickle your funny-bone – there’ll be a visual gag, with a bit of slapstick, and maybe a witty line or two. For all the barrage of jokes that come your way, quite a lot of them miss the target in my opinion and some odd choices are made. Why does Maid Marian have a frumpy German handmaid? Why is Friar Tuck replaced with the Jewish Rabbi Tuckman? Search me.
What ultimately holds this film together is Elwes, the charismatic leading man as the titular hero. Elwes knows exactly how to play this role and he goes about it with a glee that you can see in his eyes, so much so that the films seems to fizzle out a tad when he’s off-screen. In the hands of another actor, Robin Hood might have become just another of the silly characters that make up the cast, but by playing him completely straight and sincerely, Elwes delivers the comedy in spades – even breaking the fourth wall nicely. He effectively draws upon the swashbuckling antics of Errol Flynn (star of the classic The Adventures of Robin Hood, whom he resembles slightly) to become the dashing and confident hero wrapped up in his own story. Combining this with his eloquent British accent, Elwes has some of the best moments such as when segues into Churchill in a rallying speech or warns Prince John that the people will listen to him because, “Unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak in an English accent.” It’s a great comedic performance from Elwes, even channelling some of Westley from The Princess Bride. Cary Elwes seems generally well-suited to these roles and I was all the more surprised when I saw him crop up in the first Saw film! Freaky stuff.
It would be unfair not to mention Roger Rees as the Sheriff of Rottingham (see, it’s a parody) who snarls his way through the dialogue as the villain and rival for Marion’s affections, almost giving Elwes a run for his money. There are some other noteworthy performances to mention too; Dave Chappelle as Ahchoo, and the late Dom DeLuise in a scene perfectly riffing on The Godfather. They all contribute to some great moments which I can’t help but chuckle at. There’s not much more to say about Men in Tights, except that it’s a nonsensical good time, and for a parody that’s not bad at all.
“Hey nonny nonny and a-here we go. Check it out.”