Robin Hood

Posted on November 20, 2018 at 5:45 pm

C
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive references
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended wartime and action-style peril and violence, arrows, fire, knives, beheading, references to torture, horrific child abuse
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 21, 2018
Date Released to DVD: February 18, 2019

Copyright 2018 Lionsgate
There have been so so so so so many Robin Hoods over the years and a couple of them are as good as movies get, starting with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, and Eugene Pallette as Robin, Marian, Gisbourne, Prince John, and Friar Tuck. Then there’s the Disney animated version with music by Roger Miller, and the parody version from Mel Brooks with Robin played by “The Princess Bride’s” Cary Elwes. We’ve also had genuinely terrible Robin Hoods, perhaps most regrettably Kevin Costner with a California accent. And now we have the international co-production version, clearly geared to the non-US market, with clunky, exposition-weighted dialogue, a drumbeat-heavy score and action sequences juiced with bullet-time and slo-mo. Can’t we talk about the Errol Flynn version instead? Directed by the guy who did “Casablanaca?” With one of the all-time best movie scores, composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold? No? Sigh. Well, all right.

This time, Robin is played by Welsh actor Taron Egerton, best known for the “Kingsmen” movies and “Eddie the Eagle.” This is not his fault. He is a fine actor and can handle action scenes and love scenes capably. It is also not the fault of Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and F. Murray Abraham, who do their best. Possibly, it is not the fault of Leonardo diCaprio, who shows up in the credits as producer. It is most likely this big, dumb movie is the fault of the big, dumb ways that movies get made these days. The more they cost, the more dumbed-down they have to be to make money overseas, and this one apparently cost a lot.

We’re there because the story of the dashing nobleman who stole from the rich to give to the poor and was the world’s greatest archer and hundreds of years later is still a symbol of gallantry and heroism. But this movie begins by telling us to forget everything we think we know about the story and many of its most familiar and beloved elements are missing. No archery contest, no ransom for the king, no plotting Prince John. Which would be fine if what it has instead was of equal interest, but it really isn’t. It’s just a first-person shooter game with live action.

In this version, as in most others, Robin of Loxley is a nobleman. As he tells us in the opening narration, his story begins with a thief but it is not him. He discovers a veiled young woman (Eve Hewson as Marian) stealing one of his horses. Moved by her pluck, her generosity (it is for a poor member of the community) and her lovely blue eyes, he allows her to take the horse and soon, well, let Robin tell you himself: “They were young and in love until the cold hand of fate reached out.” See what I mean? Robin is drafted to fight in the Crusades, where the British have arrows and the “infidels” have a sort of gatling gun for arrows. Robin is wounded trying to save the son of the captured “infidel” who tried to kill him. Robin objects to murdering prisoners. He is sent back to England, where he finds that both his home and Marian are gone. His home has been taken by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) and Marian, who was told that he had been killed, is now with Will (Jamie Dornan). Furthermore, the man whose son he tried to save stowed away on the boat to devote his life to vengeance. The English version of his name is John, and he wants to help Robin fight the people responsible for his son’s death. Cue the training montage. And the beating drums.

It’s not that it’s dumb. It’s that it is so much dumber than it needed to be. I do not expect the characters to speak the way people did in the 12th century, but Robin should not be asking someone “You okay?” of “I want to go big.” It isn’t just the drumbeats that are headache-inducing. It is the clunkiness of the expository dialogue, hammering contemporary parallels like the Sheriff’s “They hate us, our freedom, our culture, our religion.” I expected him to talk about sending troops to stop the caravans. “This thief is making you look like a damned fool!” That’s the kind of writing Mel Brooks wrote a whole movie to make fun of. I don’t know what’s worse, the dumb slang or the dumb pretentious/portentous pronouncements:”Fear is the greatest weapon in the church’s arsenal. It is why the church created Hell.”

It’s too loud, too long, and too dumb. What they’re stealing here is our money, our time, and our goodwill.

Parents should know that this film has pervasive near-R peril and violence with battle scenes, arrows, fire, explosions, chases, knives, beheading (offscreen) and many characters injured and killed, and brief strong language, and references to horrific child abuse and torture.

Family discussion: Why was Robin different from the other lords? What issues in this movie are still important today?

If you like this, try: “The Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”

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Robin Hood

Posted on August 6, 2013 at 4:00 am

robin hood disneyDisney is celebrating the 40th anniversary of one of its most beloved animated musicals with a gorgeous new Blu-Ray. It is based on the classic Robin Hood story of the man who robbed from the rich to give to the poor in 12th century England.  It has cute cartoon animals playing all of the roles, a talented voice cast, and singable songs from down home country singer Roger Miller.

The story is narrated by Moore as Merry Men minstrel Alan-a-Dale, a rooster.  Wicked but immature Prince John is trying to steal the crown from his brother, brave King Richard (both lions voiced by Peter Ustinov).  He is backed by Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas as a gap-toothed snake).  In this version of the story, Sir Hiss hypnotizes the king to get him to leave England and fight in the Crusades.  With Richard gone, John abuses the populace, imposing harsh taxes.  Robin (Brian Bedford as a fox) is a nobleman who fights to protect the community, stealing back the money that has been stolen from them by Prince John.  Kids will especially enjoy the antics of Prince John, who reverts to babyhood and sucks his thumb when he is under pressure.

The rest of the cast includes the distinctive voices of Phil Harris (Baloo from “The Jungle Book”) as Little John, a bear, Monica Evans as Maid Marion (a vixen), John Fiedler (voice of Pooh) as a mouse innkeeper, and Andy Devine as Friar Tuck (a badger), and in addition to Miller’s songs “Ooo De Lally,” “Whistle Stop,” and “Not in Notingham,” there is a Johnny Mercer tune, “The Phony King of England.”

I have one copy to give away!  Send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with “Robin” in the subject line and tell me your favorite version of this story.  Don’t forget your address!  (US addresses only)  I will pick a winner at random on August 12.  Good luck!

Parents should know that there is some mild peril and slapstick in this film.

Family discussion: Why were brothers John and Richard so different?  Why is Robin Hood remembered as a hero?  Who is most like Robin Hood today?

If you like this, try: “The Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn and Disney animation classics like “Pinocchio” and “Peter Pan”

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Robin Hood

Posted on September 21, 2010 at 8:00 am

If, as the Gothic calligraphy tells us as the beginning of this film, tyrants inspire heroes, then the clear implication is that heroes inspire movies. And Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to give to the poor, has been one of the most frequently portrayed on screen over the course of the last century, beginning with a silent film in 1908 and continuing through portrayals that have included Disney animation, Mel Brooks comedy, a space-age version, a gangster version, and films with Robin as a woman, as a child, and as an old man decades after his famous adventures (played by Sean Connery at age 45, Crowe’s age when he made this film).

Pretty much, though, all versions have stuck with the idea of Robin Hood as a nobleman who valiantly defends the rights of the commoners against a corrupt prince who hopes to take over the throne and who falls in love with the beautiful Maid Marian. In this version, something of a prequel, Robin is not noble and Marian is not a maid.

The “Gladiator” director and star reunite ten years later with another story of a heroic rebel leader. Russell Crowe, looking a little more doughy than he did a decade ago in the toga, is Robin Longstride, an archer in the army of King Richard the Lionhearted who has the courage to tell the king he is wrong, landing in the stocks for his impertinence. The king is killed in battle and the knights taking his crown back to London are ambushed by Godfrey (all-purpose villain Mark Strong), a traitor close to Prince John (Oscar Isaac) but working for King Philip of France. Robin and his men pretend to be the knights so they can get back home. And he promises the dying knight whose armor he takes that he will return his sword to his father, Sir Walter Loxley, in Nottingham.

With John as the new king, Godfrey is given the authority to collect taxes from the noblemen, who have already been taxed into poverty. But Godfrey’s plan is to pillage the country so brutally that the nobility will no longer support the king, making the country more vulnerable to attack. Robin delivers the sword to Sir Walter (Max von Sydow), who asks him to stay and pretend to be his son, to help protect his land. Sir Walter’s daughter-in-law, Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett), the knight’s widow, reluctantly agrees. This puts Robin, now known as Sir Robert Loxley, in Godfrey’s path.

As you can tell from this rendition, it’s overly complicated and a lot of what we expect in a Robin Hood story is missing. But it is one thing to omit the archery competition and another to remove the key element of the story, the idea of a nobleman who fights for the commoners. While “Gladiator” did a masterful job of creating a sense of time and place, “Robin Hood” has some clanging anachronisms that take us out of the movie entirely, including some of the dialogue and a scene where von Sydow and Crowe have an Oprah-esque therapy session so that Robin can have an epiphany about his feelings for his father.

Scott and his CGI crew have put together a gorgeous and compelling re-creation of the landscape and architecture of the era, and the movie conveys the fragility of the overlay of civilization as unsettling new ideas about justice, equality, and self-determination are beginning to take hold. But the script itself has a sense of struggle behind it, with too many story lines and too little resolution. Retro elements like burning map montages to show the progress of the pogrom-like raids compete with winks to the future as scenes suggest iconic images like Joan of Arc in armor, D-Day, and the Holocaust. And the concluding scene is such a fundamental re-writing of history that we wonder whether it is not we who have been robbed.

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