I recently broke into Ridley Scott’s house and found, inside of a cookbook, the recipe for Robin Hood.
In a large bowl, mix together the themes and visuals of Gladiator with the fanciful lightness of A Knight’s Tale. Take the combined awesomeness of these and divide by three. Serve luke warm.
Where the film suffers most is in being undecided about what it’s trying to be. It’s sometimes got a great, dark tone, but it’s incessantly undermined by a PG cheesiness that is impossible to ignore. The first time we meet Robin, he’s battling heroically to help take a French castle. Then, during the after party, he outwits several of his companions performing that cups and ball trick. Then, after starting a brawl when someone calls bullshit on his scheme, he confesses to his indiscretion, and even, when prompted to do so, admits to King Richard that he thinks that the Crusade that they are returning from was unjust. Within ten minutes, you get the picture that Robin is strong, clever, and, as long as it is convenient to be so, morally unflappable.
The rest of the movie follows this flawless man agilely riding, shooting, and strutting his way through England, following circumstance and coincidence until surprise of surprises, he finds himself in the village he grew up in. Once there, he has a flashback to his youth, wherein he learns that his father helped write the Magna Carta… or something. Suddenly realizing this fact, Robin decides that it’s now his duty to unite the barons of England in the name of defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of merriment. One epic battle later, during which no one on the enemy team takes advantage of the fact that Robin has stopped fighting in order to make out with Marian, the King becomes jealous of Robin’s popularity and declares him to be an outlaw, setting up the more familiar setting for most Robin Hood tales. And that’s about what you get.
All’s not entirely lost in Robin Hood, however. Every once in awhile things actually work, like the cool arrow effects, or anything that Kevin Durand does. There’s also these slightly out of place musical numbers led by Merry Men minstrel Allan A’Dayle. If you think the music sounds kind of like Great Big Sea, that’s because Allan is played (very suitably) by GBS frontman Alan Doyle. Thankfully, these songs are integrated enough into the story that you can pretend that they’re not the musical numbers they actually are.
While there are, as I said, moments and characters that serve an entertaining purpose, it stands to be said that they are good parts in a bad movie, not vice-versa.