Picks and Pans Review: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Frailty, thy name is Kevin. This is a big, colorful, sharp-witted and beautifully photographed rendering of the tale of the olde English guerrilla fighter—two solidly entertaining hours.
But it can never supplant the classic 1938 version of the story because Costner, as Robin, is upstaged, overshadowed and outacted by Rickman as the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham and by Freeman as a Muslim sidekick Robin acquires when he is taken prisoner during the Crusades.
True, as written by Pen Densham and John Watson, this is a sensitive, new-age kind of Robin Hood. He cries, he gets flustered when he loses his sword, and he breaks down when he sees a body. He even asks a foe, "Did I wrong you in a previous life?"
With his high-pitched voice, flat inflections and Dobie Gillis—like all-Americanness, though, Costner never shows anything like the charisma he needs to inspire a pack of forlorn outlaws to fight a well-armed, tyrannical despot. While he looks great—though it doesn't help him that many of his action scenes involve obvious doubles—when he opens his mouth, you want to run back, hide in the forest and just poach deer on weekends.
Costner certainly never approaches the zest Errol Flynn gave to the role. (And remember, Flynn faced a formidable supporting cast too.)
Rickman, Die Hard's urbane bad guy, camps it up mightily. He has most of the film's best lines: "No more humane beheadings," he snarls in one tantrum. "And call off Christmas." But he also turns some routine dialogue most adroitly.
Freeman overcomes a bushel of aren't-these-Christians-a-hoot lines as the stalwart right-hand man. Nick Brimble as Little John and Soo Drouet as Little John's rough-hewn wife fit the movie's broad style too. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio effectively turns the main heroine's role into Ms. Marian, bullying people in ways that would have shocked Olivia de Havilland.
Director Kevin Reynolds gives the movie pace, energy and high spirits. Second-unit directors Mark Illsley and Max Kleven are worth noting too, so stirring are the fight scenes.
Be prepared for graphic violence, a mindless joke based on a rape attempt and dunderheaded obscenity. (Does it serve any function to have a character say, "Well, f—- me!"?) Stand ready to note that when Costner says, "I would die for you," he puts so little feeling into it, he might as well be saying, "You're standing on my foot."
But be in a forgiving mood. You'll have a splendid time and can while away idle moments musing about who would make a better Robin. Anyone suggesting Sean Penn or Bruce Willis is automatically disqualified. (PG-13)