Now and then I'll re-watch a Disney film that I haven't seen since childhood, curious to see what the adult version of Eric D. Snider thinks of it. The latest animated "classic" -- to Disney, any film it has released is a "classic" -- to show up in my DVD player is Robin Hood, the one from 1973 where foxes and bears and lions enact the English folk tale, and Roger Miller is a rooster minstrel. Overall, it didn't do much for me. The title character is boring and uncharismatic. And not only is the story resolved by deus ex machina -- King Richard returns from the Crusades and restores order -- but it happens offscreen, with the narrator filling us in afterward, which is a terrible way to tell a story.

The saving grace, however, is the buffoonish and cowardly Prince John. Voiced by Peter Ustinov (who was about 50 at the time), the prince is a vain, foppish dandy who sounds like an even more over-the-top version of Stewie on Family Guy, a perfectly outrageous character defined by how improbably petulant, childish, and stupid he is. Nearly everything he says is funny, and his reptilian adviser, Sir Hiss (the great British comic Terry-Thomas), is a great foil. The two almost feel like they're in a different movie altogether, engaged in their own back-and-forth that has nothing to do with anything else.

After the jump, I've embedded two clips. One is the scene where Robin and Little John disguise themselves as gypsies and rob Prince John's caravan. It's fairly representative of what Ustinov does throughout the film. The other clip is a compilation of some of the character's best moments. (Not all, though. It's missing "Seize the fat one!") That laugh of his -- "AH ha! AH ha!" -- cracks me up every time.
categories Features, Cinematical