Forget the scruffy Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, prince of thieves. When it comes to Robin Hoods, my fave renegade archer is Robin of Loxley, the dashing blond jokester at the center of Mel Brooks' 1993 comedy Robin Hood: Men in Tights. His weapon of choice: A well-timed one-liner, backed up by plenty of arrow-shooting and swashbuckling. His sidekick of choice: Dave Chappelle. And he doesn't like to wear pants! Yes, this Robin is my kind of hero.
In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Robin of Loxley (Cary Elwes) returns to England during the Crusades to find Prince John (Richard Lewis) usurping King Richard's throne. With the loyal Ahchoo (Chappelle) and his blind servant Blinkin (Mark Blankfield) at his side, Robin teams up with Little John and the Merry Men on a quest to defeat Prince John and the evil Sheriff of Rottingham (Roger Rees) and unlock Maid Marian's (Amy Yasbeck) chastity belt.
British actor Cary Elwes had already earned a place in heroic moviedom by the time he donned his Robin Hood tights, thanks to his role in 1987's The Princess Bride as the dreamy farm boy-turned-pirate Westley. A few years after The Princess Bride, he co-starred in the Civil War drama Glory and ushered in the '90s with a pair of memorable bad guy roles in 1990's Days of Thunder and 1991's Hot Shots! (Elwes' other 1993 film, the Alicia Silverstone obsession thriller The Crush, would become guilty pleasure viewing for me years later. That was a much naughtier crush than the one I had on Elwes' ribald Errol Flynn impersonation.)
In retrospect, Robin Hood: Men in Tights marked a sort of turning point in Elwes' career. After proving himself adept at broad comedy and adventurous leading man roles, the actor seemed to turn to other genres after crossing the comedy watermark off his list. Besides, once you play the lead in a Mel Brooks movie, where else is there to go in the world of comedy? And so, despite the occasional detour into comedy territory (as with 1997's Liar, Liar, opposite Jim Carrey, and that one direct-to-video National Lampoon movie starring Jon Bon Jovi), Elwes carved his subsequent career out of roles in dramas, thrillers, and properties like the Saw franchise. (After appearing in the first film, he returns in this year's Saw VII).
So this week's as good a time as any to revisit not only a golden bygone period in Cary Elwes' career, but all of the perfectly awesome Robin Hood iterations that Hollywood gave us well before Ridley Scott decided to pour Russell Crowe into the legendary tunic. He might not have had the power of balladeer Bryan Adams backing him (score one for Kevin Costner!), but at least Elwes could speak with an English accent.
(Okay, so can Russell. But is he as smooth with the ladies?)