By: Addison Wylie
Last time we checked in with TIFF’s Mel Brooks retrospective, it was to recover old memories of his classic Blazing Saddles. Another reason why It’s Good to Be the King is a useful look back at Brooks’ filmography is that it allows audiences to see how the filmmaker’s sense of humour has aged.
Unfortunately, Robin Hood: Men in Tights isn’t exactly a fond way to remember Mel Brooks’ signature silliness. His love for cinema and poking fun at hackneyed genre beats hasn’t left, but his ability to pace and construct a scene soured in this ode to swashbuckling action/adventures.
In older comedies like Blazing Saddles and even Spaceballs, Brooks was able to transition from each joke effortlessly. Movie goers sometimes missed punchlines because they were laughing so hard. It was a quality that made Brooks’ films re-watchable. In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the actors wait for the laugh, then wait longer. Plenty of laughs are to be had, but don’t be surprised if their trailing finales leave you feeling impatient.
The filmmaker is still able to provide glamorous production designs and colourful costuming. He even supplies another amusing villain (played by comedian Richard Lewis) and a likeable valiant hero (played by Cary Elwes, loving and basking in the spotlight).
Some of the sight gags work and surprise us, but others are incredibly dated and sometimes awkward to sit through. A smattering of Home Alone references and one-note references to other movies induce lots of eye rolls. And, not the good kind.
If you adore Brooks, you may find a little bit of love for Robin Hood: Men in Tights. However, I embrace Brooks and his wackiness, and even I found this flick to be a bit of a bust.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Saturday, December 13 at 10:00 p.m.