Kevin Costner's 'Robin Hood' is glaringly off-target


November 01, 1991|By Josh Mooney


Warner Home Video


There are more things wrong than right with this latest film version of the Robin Hood legend, but that didn't stop summer audiences from lining up at movies theaters -- they were happy, it seems, just to feast their eyes on Kevin Costner again.

Mr. Costner is just plain uneasy in the title role -- a fact that many will find difficult to ignore from the first scene on. A director with more savvy than Kevin Reynolds might have gone with Mr. Costner's unease and awkwardness, somehow turning it into the fuel that powers Robin's story and his fate. Mr. Reynolds, a talented director (who helmed 1958's "Fandango," which featured Mr. Costner's first starring role; the two are old friends) prefers to pretend everything's hunky-dory, especially when it's

not. For whatever reason, Mr. Costner can't settle on or maintain an appropriate accent for his ancient British hero, and it's hard to ignore something as glaring as this. It's all the more jarring when contrasted with the obvious care and effort that went into re-creating 12th century England.

The film begins as Mr. Costner's Robin, having traveled to the Far East as a member of the Crusades, hooks up with Morgan Freeman's Azeem, a stately, powerful Moor (Mr. Freeman is one of the film's more enticing presences).

Back in England, Robin follows the traditional story more closely, dealing with the lovely Maid Marian (played strongly, with a feminist bent, by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), banding together with his Merry Men, and to the delight of audiences everywhere, doing battle with the evil sheriff of Nottingham, played by Alan Rickman.

Mr. Rickman, a talented, classically trained actor, is great fun as the evil sheriff, reaching the top while not going over. When he's on screen, the film rages -- though at times it almost feels as if he and Mr. Costner are in separate movies.

This is the animated classic that Disney insisted for years would not be coming out on videotape. That the company relented suggests just how dominant and all-encompassing the video end of the entertainment business has become.

Whatever the reasons, we should all be thankful that this 1940 film is now available for home purchase. Like those other one-in-a-million films ("E. T.," for example), this is truly entertainment for "kids of all ages."

"Fantasia," born out of Walt Disney's "Silly Symphony" short films, integrates classical music and animation of many different styles, ranging from abstract to Mickey Mouse. Technically, the visuals are brilliant, overwhelming. Conceptually, the musical selections are given an animated treatment that suits each one wonderfully.

As narrator Deems Taylor tells us at the beginning, there are three kinds of music: music that paints pictures, music that tells stories, and music for music's sake. Each is illustrated here. An example of the latter is Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor," which is accompanied by mesmerizing abstract images.

There is the unforgettable "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment, featuring Mickey and the magical brooms, and the segment featuring Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony," which featured a whole slew of nymphs and centaurs and the like. This segment, perhaps the most intricate and beautiful one of all, rubbed Beethoven purists the wrong way; the master would surely have never allowed his music to be wedded to such silliness. But of course, who knows? He might have loved it.

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