So on a lark I picked up the book “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” by Howard Pyle, and to my surprise, am quite enjoying it. It is subtly hilarious, very British, really hits on the “helping the poor” issue, and is just a whole lot of fun. The relationship between Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham is presented as a Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd one of Robin constantly outwitting the Sheriff and the leaving him constantly steamed. FYI, the figure of Robin Hood has existed in English ballads since as early as 1377 and the book I’m reading is one of the more popular prose presentations, from the 1880s.
Anyway, this is on Netflix, so it was that I decided to take a look at Kevin Costner as Robin Hood in this quite popular film of 1991. It is directed by Kevin Reynolds, who would go on to direct Costner in his subsequent film: Waterworld. And, as you can imagine, it is absolutely godawful.
The biggest, worst problem is obviously Kevin Costner. You already know he’s wrong, you might not remember how absolutely, boneheadedly wrong he is. To have an American actor is, I guess, not the very worst idea (as I read the book I imagine how hilarious Chris Pratt could be in the role), but to have an actor that is SO American, that looks like he came straight off the Dayton, Ohio used car lot and into Sherwood forest… and then for him to keep his American accent in one of the most definitively English roles there is… verges into the hilarious. And Costner, who at that time looks like the deepest thought he’s had probably centers around mashed potatoes [i.e. he does not project even the most basic sheen of sophistication or worldliness] is consistently, clangingly awful when he tries to express derring-do or lay out forest war strategy.
Then there’s Morgan Freeman as Robin’s sworn friend and protector that he met in the Crusades [Kevin Coster in the crusades, think about it] so we can have a bit of race in the otherwise all-white proceedings. There’s a bit of trivia about this film that his character is based on a character from an earlier Robin Hood film, and that the filmmakers did not know he wasn’t in the original material… which indicates that they never read any original material. Then there’s Christian Slater, lookig like a snide suburban teenager, pulling everyone out of the movie every time he appears. And Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as a plucky, resourceful Maid Marion who farms for the poor and defends her own castle in an all-black assassins outfit, because she is an empowered and self-sufficient woman. The only one having fun, pitching his performance correctly and at least seeming British is Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The book makes me curious to see more Robin Hood adaptations… but not too many. If you know of a good one, write it in the comments. This one is pretty terrible, and the only amusement is to watch everything about it, but especially Coster, be all wrong. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you I didn’t make it to the end and have no intention to.