Here’s what I’ve been hearing about “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” pretty consistently ever since it came out: It’s a terrible, stupid movie. Kevin Costner is unwatchable. But Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham kicks ass, and is worth sitting through the rest of the movie for. (Or is almost worth sitting through the rest of the movie for. Opinions vary on this point.)
So it showed on HBO recently, and I thought: What the hell. I’ll Tivo it, I’ll watch it out of the corner of my eye while I’m working on my laptop, and when Alan Rickman comes on I’ll pay attention.
Here’s my assessment.
First: Oh, my dog, is this a terrible movie. Bloated, obvious, as formulaic as bad mainstream porn, with ham-handed attempts at both humor and heroism, it’s everything people hate about costume flicks. And Kevin Costner is even more unwatchable than usual.
But who cares about that. What about the RickmanWatch?
Yes, Rickman is great as the Sheriff of Nottingham. As you would expect him to be. But I didn’t think he was quite all that and a bag of chips. It’s a pretty one-note role: Snarling, Cackling, Snidely Whiplash Bad Guy. And that’s not enough… even for a Tivo’ed “Hot Moments with Alan Rickman” fast-forward session.
That’s hardly Rickman’s fault. That’s how the part was written, and I’m sure it’s how it was directed as well. But I like interesting movie villains, movie villains who seem human, movie villains who shed some light on why people do what they do. They’re more compelling — and more pertinently, they’re more hot.
But Rickman does do one thing with the role that makes it stand out: He makes it funny.
The scene where the Sheriff is trying to marry Maid Marian against her will, and the Merry Men keep trying to break the door down, is a great example. He’s not enraged, he’s not frightened — he’s just incredibly annoyed at the constant interruption. He’s not like Snidely Whiplash at all. He’s like an irritable co-worker who’s being interrupted for the tenth time that day and gets snippy.
And that isn’t something you see a lot of in Standard Snidely Whiplash Movie Villains. Standard Snidely Whiplash Movie Villains are usually too entranced with their beautiful wickedness to let themselves be funny. Rickman is very good at finding the kernel of humor in the humorless, self-important prat — he does it in the Harry Potter movies, he did it to perfection in “Galaxy Quest.” And he does it really well here.
But not quite well enough. Rickman is pretty entertaining in “Robin Hood: Prince of Feebs,” and he does the best he can with what he has; but it’s just not a well-crafted enough role. And there’s just not enough of him in it, even with fast-forwarding through on Tivo. I’m coming down on the “almost worth sitting through the rest of the movie for” side on this one.
So here’s the current Rickman Roundup:
Sense and Sensibility: C. Alan Rickman in the movie: B+. (Been a while since I’ve seen this one, though. I don’t much like the story in the first place, and I thought Rickman was wrong for the part — but he was awfully damn hot. Too hot for the role, actually.)