Medievel tea party
Ridley Scott’s latest blockbuster is like a renaissance fair with a message
One has to look at Ridley Scott’s version of “Robin Hood” and blink. Quotations needed because Scott’s revision retains little of the iconic expectations an audience would have of the clever and lean sly-fox character, and delivers instead a dour and bloated mumbling grunt shoehorned into a medieval take on the contemporary Tea Party movement. Bloated being the key word here, as $237 million was inexplicably spent on what ends up being 140 interminable minutes of the most over-extended Renaissance fair ever mounted, with the basic narrative and characters from Gladiator thrown into the costumes and setting of Kingdom of Heaven.
Sure, the basic mythos is left intact. We know the drill—there have been more than 100 versions of the story filmed over the last 100 years, so we’ve all seen at least one. Why bother with yet another one? Well, this version started out different.
Originally titled Nottingham, it was a revisionist take from the perspective of the sheriff of Nottingham, a clever man using a medieval variety of forensics to track down that rascally Robin and his merry men. Sort of a CSI: Sherwood Forest. But Scott was brought in, and he decided he didn’t like the script. Why he took the job if he didn’t like the script is the big question, although it’s probably answered with a check for eight figures and a playground for unchecked ego. End result is that the sheriff of Nottingham is on screen for all of five minutes. So there you go.
What fills the rest of the running time is Russell Crowe as Robin Hood, mumbling in some unidentifiable accent as the rest of the cast flounces around him, bellowing in their thea-tah voices. There are occasional time-outs for stylishly realized PG-13 mayhem, but mostly it’s just sluggish stretches of actahs making the most of their chance to emote. And of course, plenty of pandering to the Tea Party movement.
But still, I’ll cop: Long after Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s still impossible for me to take medieval romps seriously. During the big attack on a French castle, I kept expecting some goof to pop up, smack his silly helmet and proclaim, “Thees eez zee castle of my master, Gee de Lombahrrrrdoh, you silly Eengleesh Keynigget!”
Stocked with every cliché in the book, Robin Hood plays almost as subtle farce, albeit one that is all setup but no punch lines.