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DVD/Blu-ray: 'Robin Hood'

Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. The latest "Robin Hood" film ransacks moviegoers' memories and doesn't give them anything in return. It travels a convoluted course among the royal courts and battlefields of France and England as it depicts a skillful yeoman archer and his battle pals from the Crusades turning into the legendary hero and his merry men.

This prolonged origin story is supposed to sweep audiences up with its grit and relevance. (Squeezed by taxes, England is ready to fall into anarchy and then into French hands -- until Robin unites his countrymen with a dream of shared rights and responsibilities.) But Brian Helgeland's script lacks personality, and fails to pay off in wit, romance or gallantry. He barely fleshes out even his good ideas -- like abandoned or orphaned kids becoming a gang of poachers in Sherwood Forest, sporting frightful masks and punkish attitudes.

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Russell Crowe is suitably rugged and wily and even sensitive as Robin, but not particularly memorable. The movie makes Robin a generic working-class hero, with Little John and Will Scarlett and Allan a Dale exuding ersatz gusto as his up-from-the-ranks buddies. (At least Friar Tuck gets to brew some potent mead.)

Cate Blanchett brings dash to the proceedings. She imbues this movie's Marion with sexuality and fighting spirit -- she is no dewy-eyed Maid. But you're left to wonder what director Ridley Scott thought he was bringing to the party. "Robin Hood" boasts impressive sweep and texture but has no galvanic core. Perhaps Scott wanted to create the follow-up nobody wanted: a sequel to "Kingdom of Heaven," his already forgotten epic about the Crusades. (I confess, I still haven't watched the director's cut of KOH; but the director's cut is all I've seen of "Robin Hood.") The most revealing note in the DVD extras is that the first big costume purchase for "Robin Hood" was the 500 suits of chain mail originally made for "Kingdom of Heaven."

Even many of us who resisted the burly charms of "Gladiator" thought that Crowe and Scott gave it a mulish magnetism. Has the team lost its spark? Or did they simply never lick the script? After one of his best movies, "Black Hawk Down," Scott told me, "The script is always the hardest thing to get right. I'm so practiced in film-making that it's always a relatively straightforward process. [The problem] is always the script."

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