New York Times movie critic (and Michael Moore fan) A. O. Scott is obsessed with the right-leaning politics and anti-French attitudes he glimpses in the new "Robin Hood" movie, starring Russell Crowe. His Arts section review is titled "Rob the Rich? Give to the Poor? Oh, Puh-leeze!"
You may have heard that Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but that was just liberal media propaganda. This Robin is no socialist bandit practicing freelance wealth redistribution, but rather a manly libertarian rebel striking out against high taxes and a big government scheme to trample the ancient liberties of property owners and provincial nobles. Don't tread on him!
So is "Robin Hood" one big medieval tea party? Kind of, though that description makes the movie sound both more fun and more provocative than it actually is. The film's politics, in any case, are more implicit than overt, so that the filmmakers can plausibly deny any particular topical agenda. Which is fair enough: the fight of ragged warriors against sniveling and sadistic tyrants appeals across tastes and ideologies. In our own minds, at least at the movies, we are all embattled underdogs standing up for our rights against a bunch of overprivileged jerks who won't leave us alone.
Scott, always quick to sniff out political themes in unlikely places (he found references to imperialism and the Vietnam War in the science-fiction thriller "Aliens") continues his odd defense of all things French:
The anti-French animus of "Robin Hood" is amusingly over the top -- the French monarch is first glimpsed slurping oysters -- but also perhaps a little anachronistic, belonging less to 1200 than to 2003, the height of the Freedom Fries era. But somebody has to be the villain, and "Robin Hood" has a pretty good one in Godfrey (Mark Strong), a two-faced courtier whose diabolical scheme is to foment civil war between John and the northern nobles so that the French can conquer England all over again, just as they did in 1066.
Scott labors under the impression that the thousand-year animus between Britain and France was invented in 2003 by Bush to enable the British-U.S. alliance for the Iraq War. From his July 18, 2003 review of Rowan Atkinson's comedy "Johnny English." (The Iraq War launched in March 2003.)
Inevitably, someone will raise the issue of geopolitical relevance. (Don't you hate that?) Here is a movie set in England and opening all over America on the Friday after Bastille Day, in which the villains are French. A stirring tribute to Anglophone solidarity in the face of Gallic treachery, or yet another arrogant slander against La Belle France?