This new version of Robin Hood looks far more expensive and classy than anything the Fox network has broadcast in its history. That’s because Robin Hood was conceived as a theatrical feature and was shot in Europe by a skilled director, John Irvin (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy). It also stars such film actors as Sleeping With the Enemy’s Patrick Bergin as the outlaw of Sherwood Forest and Henry and June’s Uma Thurman as Maid Marian.
Sherwood Forest has never seemed greener and more lush than it does here, and Bergin and his merry men rob from the rich and give to the poor with enthusiasm. This Hood is a properly historical one; care has been taken to show us the 12th-century political and economic conditions that could have given rise to widespread poverty, the greedy tax policies of Prince John (The Shooting Party’s Edward Fox), and an outlaw like Robin Hood.
But let’s face it, we don’t want propriety in a Robin Hood — we want bows and arrows; we want feathers in caps; we want a fat, funny Friar Tuck. Director Irvin grants us most of this — the brief archery scenes are amusing, and Jeff Nuttal is gratifyingly comic as Tuck.
It has often been remarked that Bergin looks like Kevin Kline right down to his trim mustache, and watching Robin Hood, you may wish that Kline had been cast in this role — Bergin is a bit of a mope; he can’t pull off the jauntiness and japery that has characterized Robin Hood ever since Errol Flynn played him in 1938. In this, Bergin is well matched by Thurman. Many film critics seem to find her sullenness sexy; this TV guy finds it merely hostile. Maybe Thurman should do a guest shot on another Fox show, Get a Life, and Chris Elliott could give her a hot foot.
This production could have used more derring-do — Bergin handles his heavy sword as limply as he does his punch lines — but it’s a finely detailed spectacle. Perhaps we’ll get more humor and adventure when Kevin Costner tackles the role in theaters this summer. B