Monday, February 25, 2008

#100: Robin Hood (Rietherman)

As a kid growing up, Robin Hood was hero of mine because he defied authority and played by his own rules. An expert at sword fighting, archery and quick thinking made him a threat to his enemies. Above all else, he always managed to win the girl in the end. It should be pointed out that he wasn’t without his flaws such as being incredibly brash in his abilities and conceited at times which almost leads to tragic consequences. His bravery and devotion to being a crusader for the people was something to aspire to.

The compilation of any type of “favorite movie list” especially one of this magnitude is a daunting task that involves constant shuffling and re-examination in order to get it just right. The relentless scrutiny over placement can be very stressful albeit rewarding because for those of us who take cinema seriously, these lists are often a direct reflection what cinema personally means to the individual and the impact said film(s) has on them. A strategy that I used to help make this list a little easier for myself to complete was to use nostalgia as a key to narrowing down films that have a direct correlation to my childhood. After all, certain films that I watched constantly as a youngster were highly influential in shaping my interest in cinema today and Disney’s Robin Hood happens to fall into that category. While there have been plenty of depictions of the famous rogue of Sherwood Forest over the years, none surpass this version in terms of sheer entertainment value, laughs or charm although Michael Curtiz’s version starring Errol Flynn comes close. It may be animated with animals playing the key roles but the rebellious spirit and sense of adventure inhabited by this classic tale remains untarnished.

This underrated Disney classic is a breezily entertaining affair for both kids and adults. Imbedded with a bluesy style emphasized by the narrator played by a rooster (that even becomes a character in the story) who sings and strums away on his banjo as he tells the story of Robin Hood sets the tone of the film. Roger Miller does great voice-work for him and is responsible for the majority of the fantastic songs on the soundtrack too with “Not In Nottingham” remaining the standout track and one of most moving scenes in the Disney canon because of it. Of course, not enough can be said of the iconic villain Prince John (Peter Ustinov) the lion and his slithering side-kick Sir Hiss (Terry-Thomas). This dynamic duo offer more laughs than any of the other Disney flicks and their relationship is actually a lot more interesting to watch unfold than say Robin Hood and Little John. The Prince’s infantile behavior (he clearly has mommy issues) and absent-mindedness offers plenty of laughs. He is also prone to sudden bursts of rage towards Sir Hiss which is cruelly comical. Nostalgia aside, this film still holds up surprisingly well even today which is often not the case when returning to childhood favorites. No matter what my mood, I can throw on my worn out VHS copy and for those brief 83 minutes, feel giddy like a kid again as if watching this film for the first time.

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