Robin Hood (Men in Tights) is still awesome, twenty-five years later…

This year, Cult of Whatever is looking back on some of the great movies of 1993. It’s been twenty-five years since these films first captivated audiences. Some of them were blockbuster hits, while others needed a few years on home video to find their groove. Whatever their box office intake, these movies are genuine classics and deserve recognition, even years after the fact.

In January we looked at the brilliant comedy-slash-philosophical examination that is Groundhog Day. in February it was Sleepless in Seattle, easily one of the greatest “romantic-comedies” in history. In March we remembered the late-great Robin Williams and the endlessly-rewatchable comedic stylings of Mrs. Doubtfire. In May we looked at the thrilling mystery, The Fugitive. In June we talked about Batman and the overlooked (at the time) cult classic that is Mask of the Phantasm, while July offers up The Sandlot, one of the greatest baseball movies ever. In August we praised the many life lessons gained from watching Tombstone.

I will defend Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves till the day I die. All you snobby, pretentious, thumb up your butt wannabe movie purists who want to hate on Kevin Coster’s non-English accent, or Bryan Adam’s soundtrack or Christian Slater’s shlocky soap-opera B-story can just kiss right off. That movie is golden and even today, nearly thirty years later (holy crap!), it remains the gold standard Robin Hood movie.

What, you mean you prefer this?

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A bland, dreary, unnecessarily “epic” (wannabe Braveheart) dour take on the character?

Or maybe you prefer this?

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A vapid, post-Twilight sort of angsty teen CW drama that looks more like “if Robin Hood were Batman Begins” which sounds like an interesting idea until, well…you see the trailer?

No. Give me sweeping romance, swashbuckling adventure and Alan Rickman. Oh, sweet sweet Alan Rickman; I challenge you to find me a better scene-chewing delight of a bad guy. Prince of Thieves is such a perfect take on Robin Hood (I won’t call it “definitive” because it takes liberties with the history) that I simply don’t need to see another.

Unless it’s Men in Tights.

Twenty-five years ago, the legendary Mel Brooks released the ultimate companion to the ultimate Robin Hood movie. In true Brooks fashion, it’s a movie that is required viewing alongside some other great work of cinema. You can watch all the old school westerns that you want, but your indoctrination is not complete without the ultimate send-up in Blazing Saddles. Hitchcock is essential viewing for anyone who studies and loves film, but you can’t fully appreciate Hitchcock without seeing him spoofed in High Anxiety. The same is true of Young Frankenstein with classic Universal monster movies, Silent Movie with…well, silent movies, and Spaceballs with Star Wars. You can only ever fully appreciate the greatness of something when it is spoofed by a master comedian.

Weird Al (and the legions of celebrity musicians who consider themselves “made” when he parodies their work) has made a living proving that fact true.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights is basically Prince of Thieves if Prince of Thieves was made with tongue in cheek. What works so great about the movie really only works when you’re especially familiar with the source material. Without the Costner movie on your mind, Men in Tights is maybe too slapstick, too odd, too random in its story choices. It goes through its scenes with almost a cinematic shorthand, expecting the audience watching to be aware of and familiar with the 1991 adventure film. Prince of Thieves was, after all, the second biggest movie of the year (behind Terminator 2). It was a monster hit on home video right around the time Men in Tights was released; it stands to reason that audiences would have immediately understood why there’s a cock-eyed witch in cahoots with the Sheriff of Nottingham Rottingham, even if the movie does little to explain it.

But that’s not a criticism of the movie; merely a concession that has to be made in order to fully appreciate it.

Everything that’s great about Prince of Thieves is recreated in Men in Tights, only here it’s great for entirely different reasons. Costner’s earnest heroic portrayal is replaced by Cary Elwes (forever the Dread Pirate Roberts) being the straight man in a world of slapstick. The very 1990’s Maid Marian in Prince of Thieves (who kneed men in the balls, sassed her captors and did all the #GirlPower things you’d expect) is replaced by a more classic damsel in distress Marian…with an iron lock covering her vagina. The only translation that is obviously lesser than the original is in the Sheriff. Roger Rees has an interesting take (he’s a guy who doesn’t understand syntax and keeps rearranging the words in his sentences so that they’re incomprehensible) but it’s the only character that you watch and say “this isn’t as good as in the other movie.” That’s not really fair, though, since Rickman’s character was basically the only truly comic relief piece in Prince of Thieves (even if it was often dark humor)…and you can’t improve upon perfection:

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Men in Tights really shines brightest when it says “hey remember that thing from the other movie, watch this:” It succeeds best as movie inspired by the great fun that comes with you and a bunch of friends laughing along with a film, making obnoxious and disrespectful comments because the very serious thing you’re watching is maybe taking itself too seriously. But it’s all in good fun because you actually do love it; you just love making fun of it too.

Case in point:

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Which becomes:

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Fantastic…and still awesome, twenty-five years later.

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