Robin Hood: Prince of Queens

In a complete departure from Dropkick and Coleslaw's fascinating Midnight Madness posts, I've been trying to catch a few films that made the “most-watched” list in a blog entry Withnail started a few months back. For whatever reason, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves made the list 3 or 4 times and again for reasons that I can't explain, I never saw this Costner version of the Robin Hood story back when it came out in 1991. A good call as it turns out.

At the risk of wasting time and energy over-analyzing a nearly 20-year-old popcorn epic, this version of Robin Hood is so spectacularly awful as to demand at least some effort to put it in perspective. First things first... in 1991 Kevin Costner was Hollywood's crown prince. He had just won his Oscar for Dances with Wolves and had chalked up a string of All-American doofus roles that had made him a box office darling. Costner used his new-found currency to produce and star in a series of bombs that remain positively stunning in retrospect. In the space of a few years, his fall from the highest echelons of Hollywood royalty would be complete.... and it all started right here... in Sherwood Forest.

The Knights on Broadway
Robin Hood Prince of Thieves struggles in every department and falls apart in most. The script is monumentally hackneyed and banal. The direction is truly uninspired. The bizarre acting so over-the-top as to suggest the entire cast was fucking with us, trying to prove we'd watch anything, no matter how ludicrous the characterizations. Morgan Freeman... Morgan Freeman!... is awful as a sort of spotted Moorish Chewbacca to Costner's Hans Solo-hood. Alan Rickman plays the Sheriff like he's a supervillian from the '60s Batman TV series, made up to look like an evil Barry Gibb. It's like Shakespeare meets the 3 Stooges. Based on his performance here, Christian Slater would have been finished in Hollywood were it not for a return to form a couple of years later in True Romance. His Will Scarlet is a giant whinging cock. And the HAIR.... Jesus Christ... it must have taken 6 hours to blow dry everybody before shooting could commence. It often seemed as though Glass Tiger was fighting Bon Jovi in the woods.

But the biggest problem with Robin Hood, and that's saying something, is Costner himself. He plays Robin Hood as a gooey Californian liberal, a veritable extension of his Dances with Wolves character. What Costner lost track of was what made him a star in the first place....and that was being a big doofus. He was best when he played the slightly-dimwitted, mid-western American slacker with loads of charm and not much going on upstairs. He simply can't pull it off a British aristocrat and forest civilization architect. Mel Brooks would have a field day a few years later dialing up everything that's wrong with this ridiculous movie and calling it Robin Hood: Men in Tights. If ever a pompous, overwrought movie needed a fast Brooksian skewering, this is it. Rickman could have pulled off the identical Snidely Whiplash role in the later satire and nobody would have been the wiser. I miss Mel Brooks and can only imagine what he'd have done with Avatar.

The gay subtext of this Robin Hood seems so obvious that it's hard to imagine it wasn't intentional. There are simply no moral ambiguities here, not even in the post-feminist figure of an armour-claded Maid Marion played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. She observes our fairy lad showering under a waterfall and proclaims at regular intervals that the only things she needs to defend herself against the wolves dancing in the woods are her dagger and her uber-butch nanny. It isn't a problem that Marion has a bigger dick than Robin, since howlers like "Save it for the ladies" followed immediately by "Give the man some meat", coupled with some seriously-puzzling editing choices, suggests that Robin has company enough in his all-man, tree-fort forest commune-club.

A truly spectacular film in the so-bad-it's-almost-but-not-quite-worth-watching kind of way. As for the other masterpieces on your lists that I haven't seen yet, I think it'll just have to stay that way.

I don't think I could do another of these anytime soon.


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