The “Best line” section, or whatever I replace it with is out here. Looking at my notes, I see that it’s almost all about individual lines, jokes, and bits. So I’ll do a special edition blog later, where I go into detail on some bits. Until then, let me tide you over with… “I’m Little John! But don’t let my name fool you. In real life, I’m actually very big.”

(Don't ask me, ask them.)
PLOT - Robert of Loxley is trapped in the Holy Land, as is so often the case with him. He escapes his confines with the aid of another prisoner, and returns to England, where he finds the land under tyranny, and joins with a motley crew of outlaws to fight for justice. Okay, now that I’ve typed that, I can watch the movie. Ostensibly, this was to be a parody of Prince of Thieves, but the decision was wisely made to expand it and make it more of a parody off Robin Hood’s legend in general. We get, the archery contest with split arrow, a fight on a bridge, everyone wanting to marry Marian, Robin crashing a party, a big fight in a tower, a public hanging averted, and all the rest of the traditional business. I’m fine with that. A movie that solely parodies another movie is rarely good. Speaking of good things that are rare…

(Such as it is)

THE GOOD - Okay, as much as I’m about to rag on the humor in this movie, it does have several jokes that made me laugh out loud. Sadly, there’s maybe six that weren’t ruined by the pacing afterwards. Oh, but there’s also a lot of really good actors! Sadly, they have awful lines and direction. All right, all right, let’s see, the good… The good… Nostalgia?

(There. Now no one can say I don't make easy jokes.)

THE BAD - Mel Brooks got old. That’s a bad thing. Whereas he was once a master of timing, wordplay, slapstick, and parody, all of those skills had rusted and atrophied by the time he made this movie. I suppose we all should have seen it coming when he decided to make a Star Wars parody in 1987, when it was already old, but not yet retro. (He fares slightly better here, Prince of Thieves being only two years old at this point.) Spaceballs also showed Brooks really running hard into the kind of comedy Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker (ZAZ) mastered with Airplane!. But that kind of comedy takes a special mind, and amazing talent, and a lot of luck to do well, and Brooks hasn’t got the knack.

There’s a constant feeling like all the jokes run one line too long, and the camera is kept running for a few seconds after it should have stopped. It’s a constant cycle of tell a joke, explain a joke, stand around awkwardly. You can’t pause for laughs in a movie, it doesn’t work like that. ZAZ knew that if you’re going to do stupid, off-the-wall humor, it needs to come hard and fast. Keep the audience laughing so hard they miss half the jokes, and they’ll buy tickets for a second showing. Wait for them to finish laughing, and THEY WON’T BE LAUGHING BECAUSE YOUR PACING SUCKS, MEL BROOKS.

(I found this image in a blog about purity balls. That's pretty funny.)

THE OTHERWISE WORTHY OF MENTION - There’s a LOT of jokes from old Mel Brooks movies in this one. I can’t really complain, because they’re still funny, and he’s always done it. There’s just so damn many of them this time. “It’s good to be the king”, “Walk this way”, moving deformity, sequel jokes, even an entire character. The only really awful one is when a character looks straight at the camera, directly mentions Blazing Saddles, and waggles his eyebrows. But that’s near the end, and I was so desensitized to that shit already by that point. Some people got offended by the prison in this movie, both for mocking Arabs and torture. But the torture jokes are no worse than The Wizard of Id, and the Arab jokes are incredibly mild. Plus, the book I read complaining about Arab stereotypes cited Prince of Thieves as an example of positive images. Yeah, one nice guy played by an African-American in the middle of a swarm of swarthy Semitic Saracen swine does not a positive image make, BOOK. Oh, and it’s a… musical? There’s four very short songs in it, at least. One is sung by Marian, and is very short, only one verse. One is sung by Robin to Marian, and is obviously dubbed, which is the big joke. One is an expository rap intecut with Hey Nonny Nonnys and ballet, which gets the movie off to deceptively promising start. And one is “Men in Tights”, which you all know anyway.
The Producers
The Elephant Man
Young Frankenstein
Get Smart
Blazing Saddles
Silent Movie
The Fly
The Producers (musical)

(Rather Dashing)

ROBIN - Ah, Cary Elwes. From your blond goatee to your hard to pronounce name, (Yooles? Elways?) you are in every way a class act. He’s got the easy job here, because Mel Brooks saw The Princess Bride, and knows that all you have to do is give Elwes a sword and a fake accent and let him suave his way through the role. This is where the cross-parodying I mentioned comes into play, since Robin in this movie is a parody of Errol Flynn first and anything else at least ninth. He does it well, strolling around like he owns the place, knowing that he can do whatever he damn well pleases, because he’s Robin Hood, dangit. He also tends to lapse into huge bold speeches that bore everyone else around him, which would be a lamer running gag if Elwes wasn’t able to completely sell it every time. Top marks.

("Hey, Mel, do you think they'll notice the river is small? We only say it 20 or so times." "Good point! Double that!")

LITTLE JOHN - I hope you’re ready for me to drop some hot tasty coincidence on you, ‘cause that’s how I’m about to commence to rolling. As you all are well aware, Alan Hale has played Little John in two movies seen on this very blog, and one more besides. His son played the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island. In this movie, John is played by Erik Allan Kramer, who was also in a TV movie about the making of Gilligan’s Island (Which someone made for some reason) in which he played none other than Alan Hale, Jr.! I hope you found that interesting, because there’s not much I can say about his performance here. He’s big and dumb, his fighting is acceptable for the sort of movie this is, his accent is crap, but no worse than many we’ve seen, and there’s not much in the way of jokes outside of the “big dumb guy” stereotype. Still pretty good, though.
(Mel Brooks won an Oscar for his first produced screenplay.)

WILL SCARLET - Hey there, boys and girls! Did you remember way back in the Little John part, where the character was so blandly written, all I could say about them was some lame casting trivia? Well, I hope you liked that, because now we meet Will Scarlet. He introduces himself as Will Scarlet O’Hara, and then his pants fall down. Those are pretty much the only jokes they came up with. And they overexplained one of them. The only thing to say here is that he’s played by Matthew Porretta, who a few years later played Robin Hood in a ridiculous syndicated show that I NEED to find and watch and review. Robin Hood works for a Wizard! And fights other Wizards! And Christopher Lee is in it! I guess they had at least 20 bucks. Guy wasn’t up to much in ‘95.

(That's a guillotine. Guess what kind of Jewish joke is being made.)

TUCK - Well, it’s a Mel Brooks movie, so it shouldn’t amaze you to learn that the character here is Rabbi Tuckman, played by Mel himself. He’s more or less a cameo, though. Which I’m glad about. He’s a very specific sort of comedian, and he wouldn’t really fit here. He’ll give himself a much larger role in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, and we all know how that turned out. And if you don’t please don’t go try and find out. It’s not worth it. Anyway, Tuckman shows up getting robbed by the outlaws in a scene that ratchets up the Mel Brooks Jewish Joke Ratio to its legally required level, then shows up at the end to perform the wedding of Robin and Marian. The rabbi jokes would have gotten old fast if he had been a major character, but they work in their compressed form.

(Played by Corbin Allred, star of TGIF's "Teen Angel", Oscar-nominated film "Saints and Soldiers", and something called "Josh Kirby - Time Warrior". What a career.)

MUCH - None, really. There’s the saved-from-poachers lad. He makes a really labored and awful and dated Home Alone joke. Yes, even by this movie’s standards. It’s not really based on anything other than it’s a thing a young kid can say that people will recognize. Had the movie been ten years later, the kid would have said “I see dead people”. It’s a Seltzerberg level joke, and I expect better from even ‘90s Mel.

(Hey. This girl knows funny. She was on Wings.)

MARIAN - She reeeally doesn’t make a huge impact, I’m sorry to say. Writing female characters has never been Mel Brook’s strong suit. And since by this point comedy wasn’t, either, Marian comes off pretty badly here, with not much more than a sunny outlook, an annoying voice, and some really ugly dresses. I guess if I wanted to, I could say that this was parody of how Marian tends to be underwritten romantic interest in Robin Hood movies in general and Prince of Thieves in particular, but that would be giving the movie too much credit. She wears a steel chastity belt, awaiting for the man who holds the key to unlock it. I could say that this was parody of the female lead‘s role in fantasy literature and other popular fiction as a prize to be won, but that would be giving the movie too much credit. She also has big red curly hair, and let’s just say that’s a Robin of Sherwood reference. Hey, they need SOME credit.

(You call that a sneer, Revill? THIS is a sneer!)

SHERIFF - The sheriff gains another name in this one, Mervin. Would have been finnier if the movie didn’t grind to a halt so everyone could laugh at that. Mervin is played by Roger Rees, a much classier actor than should probably be here. He looks like Rickman and acts like Rathbone. His one major joke is that he mixes up words in his sentences, and then corrects himself. (e.g. Unboy that hand! He deered to kill a King‘s dare!) This would be funny if it was a fast correction as if he was hoping no one would notice, or if he tried to tried to play it off as intentional, but instead he just gets a pained expression and slowly corrects himself, thus spelling the joke out for the audience. And if you’re tired of me complaining about this, I’m tired of Mel Brooks doing it. Rees actually performs very well, and it’s clear that he knows his way around a sword, which makes watching him fight Elwes occasionally quite fun, even if they’re filmed horribly. But hey, he’s snide, he looks like Hans Gruber, and he can get out the line “That’s going to chafe my willy” with is dignity intact. Well, done, Rog.
(Yeah, I've been holding on to this joke for a while.)

SIR GUY - None present. Not even a sort of proxy I could use, like I usually do. Did it really take us this long to get to one without a Guy? Wow. Him and Much are a lot more common than I thought they’d be.

(Hey, it's Al Pacino!)

THE MAN - Prince John is played by excessively irritating comedian Richard Lewis. When I was a small child, I used to get him confused with Al Pacino, but I couldn’t tell you why even if you gave me a big cake. I don’t even know why I would know who Al Pacino was when I was 12. Only I guess I didn’t, so there you go. This is actually a well-written idea of John, not mad with power, not evil, just kind of a jerk who loves the luxury his ill-gotten position gives him. Which makes it too bad that Lewis plays John like a whiny Jewish New York comedian who’s really out of place doing any kind of acting, let alone in the Middle Ages. (Long pause) Which he is. (Looks at the camera)
(Oh, Mr. Stewart. You make everything better.)

Richard, on the other hand, is played by the best actor ever, so that’s a nice tradeoff. In parody of Connery’s surprise ending appearance in Prince of Thieves, Patrick Stewart turns up, magnanimously fixing everything and hitting on Marian, all the while talking in a ridiculous Scottish accent. Patrick Stewart doing comedy is fan-freaking-tastic, as seen elsewhere on this blog, and I’m pleased as punch and pie to welcome him to the elite club of multitask, along with Nick Brimble and Alan Hale. His trophy is in the mail.

(Matching outfits. Cute.)

OTHER MERRY MEN - Well, Lady Sassmouth shows up, carrying a German accent and an obsession with maintaing Marian’s virginity, which is basically what she does anyway, and she’s usually the comic relief, so there’s not much change here. The clearest reference to O’Thieves here is in the two extra Merry Men. One of them, Blinken, is awesome. As you may recall, if you’ve been here since the beginning, Robin had a servant in PoT by the name of Duncan, who had been blinded by Nottingham’s men. Duncan’s malady was gruesome and graphic and he was a sad, frail old man. Which made the moments they played it for comedy, which were many, kind of awkward and uncomfortable. But Blinken plays it, naturally, with no pathos whatsoever, and is fantastic. Sure, the blind jokes are as hacky as the rest of the humor in this film, but they work in that idiom. My favorite, after he catches an arrow in midair: (John: “That was amazing!” Blinken: “I heard it coming a mile away.” Robin: “Well done, Blinken.” Blinken: “Pardon? Who’s talking?”) Not to mention that he’s the camp’s night watchman. (Robin: “What are you doing?“ Blinken: “… Guessing?“ And the fact that he tends to look in the wrong direction when people touch him.

The other is Achoo, played by… Achoo is played by… I can’t say it. He’s way WAY too good of a comedian to be here, and his comedy is so antithetical to the sort of jokes he’s forced to tell that it makes his lines seem forced and… Okay, Brian, deal with it. He was young, it was a good paycheck, and Brooks clearly recognized his ability. And if it wasn’t for embarrassing early roles of stars, we wouldn’t have Mazes and Monsters…

It’s Dave Chappelle.

And sadly, there’s not much indication of the brilliant satirist we all know from his eponymous Comedy Central show. The character is woefully written. It seems Mel Brooks wanted to parody ‘urban’ culture, and the best he could do was “What do the young people do these days? Air pumps on their sneakers! That’s it!” Id like to say Chappelle’s natural comedic ability shines through the material, but sadly, it doesn’t. While it would be nice to think of someone of his caliber being able to spin shit into gold, it turns out that when he’s given uninspiring material, he’s only about as good as the average Wayans. Actually, Marlon Wayans is better at excising laughs from bad writing, Would have been nice to see him in this. Well, now that I’ve admitted I’d rather see Marlon Wayans than Dave Chappelle in a role, I think I need to go slam my ears in the oven door.

(What ever happened to him? I know he died. I meant before that.)

OTHER VILLAINS - The hangman from Blazing Saddles is in this. Same actor and everything. The main joke in Blazing Saddles was that a medieval hangman was in the wild west. Now that it’s actually a medieval setting, he mostly does noose puns. Whatever. Dom Deluise shows up playing a Godfather parody called Don Giovanni. I’d make a joke about Brooks’ timeliness of parody again, but Godfather references are pretty timeless. His confederates are Filthy Luca, which is a clever name, and Dirty Ezio, which is not. Ezio does look a bit like Clint Eastwood, which would go a ways to explaining the name, but I’m not sure why they did that, since he’s a mob hitman, as opposed to anything even slightly like Dirty Harry. But there’s bigger failures of humor in the movie, and this one sort of fades into the background. (Note: a commenter has explained the joke behind that name, and it's actually pretty clever, so I apologize.) There’s also Latrine, a parody of the weird fortune-telling witch/sheriff’s mom from Prince of Thieves. She’s kind of funny, and being played by Tracey Ullman helps, but there’s really no dignified way to tell a joke like “My name used to be shithouse!” Hey, remember Young Frankenstein? Good times.

COMING UP NEXT - All your favorite characters! Rhi Bran Hwd! Little Iwan! And Friar Aethelfrith! Come and see the timeless legend get all Welshed-up by a guy who feels the need to tell us every damn thing he learned while researching… Hood!


  1. Frebecca said...
    Oh, the nostalgia. I grew up with this version and when you're seven, everything in this movie is hilarious.

    I actually loved this version of Marian - I think it was Amy Yasbeck's way of saying every line as though it was the most Important Thing Anyone Had Ever Said.

    And it wasn't until watching Errol Flynn's version that I realised the significance of Cary Elwes walking into the great hall with the pig over his shoulders.
    Sarah said...
    I agree with Frebecca. I watched this one quite a bit when I was little, and it was hilarious every time. Since then, it's gotten significantly less funny, and I can definitely see the forceful nature of the jokes (the Home Alone reference? Yeah...that's kinda painful to watch), but it's still worth a few chuckles. Although, granted, I've haven't seen much of Mel Brooks' old stuff, so I don't know how far he's fallen.

    Anyways, great stuff! And, as always, I look forward to reading about the next victim/installment.
    MJSchryver said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    MJSchryver said...
    "Dirty easy" is Italian-American slang, sort of an inside-out portmanteau of "quick and dirty" and "easy-peasy." Often - probably mostly - used in the phrase "dirty easy money."

    So it makes sense that "Dirty Enzio" ['dirty easy'] is partnered with "Filthy Luca" ['filthy lucre'].

    That pair of names may very well be the cleverest writing in the entire damn movie.


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