05/11/2010 09:34 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Movie Review: Robin Hood

I would ask the same question about Ridley Scott's Robin Hood that I asked about Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland: Was this trip really necessary?

Not that Robin Hood, opening Friday, is as much of a bollocks as Alice was; not even close. It's a perfectly serviceable action-adventure when it puts its mind to it. But by the time it does, viewers may already have given up hope that it will ever actually bestir itself from its term-paper-like approach to the state of the 12th-century British monarchy.

Indeed, for a Russell Crowe film, this film is distinctly short of, well, Russell Crowe. He seems to disappear for about an hour in the middle. The way Brian Helgeland has written the title character, Robin bears a distinct resemblance to Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone films. Except he says a little more and does a little less.

We all know the Robin Hood legend, as passed down in the Errol Flynn and even the Kevin Costner versions of the story. Robin was a local lad in Nottingham who became an outlaw when Prince John's men killed his father and declared him an outlaw for hunting the king's venison. Eventually, he met Little John (trying to cross a log over a stream), Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and the rest, and bonded them into his band of Merry Men. They robbed the rich, gave to the poor and shook off the shackles of Prince John's tyranny just in time for the return of King Richard from the Crusades. Throw in the archery match, his wooing Maid Marian away from John, the evil sheriff of Nottingham and you've pretty much got it covered.

But Helgeland and Scott want to make a little history of their own. So this Robin Hood is constructed as a prequel (which no doubt will lead to a sequel, considering that this film ends with the title card, "And so the legend begins").