It’s fitting that Erica Durance stars in “Beyond Sherwood Forest,” since the most apt way to describe the movie might be that it is a “Smallville”-esque take on the Robin Hood story.
You don’t want to go into either one looking for strict adherence to the legends, but if you can relax, free your mind of pre-conceived expectations and allow yourself to have a good time, you will certainly be entertained. On the down side for “Beyond Sherwood Forest” — as it also is with “Smallville” — you will see actors of wildly varying degrees of talent and a budget that can’t quite match the imagination of the writers.
In “Beyond Sherwood Forest,” you will meet many of the old favorites from the story with which you are familiar … and you also get a dragon. The story itself plays out in ways you might not expect for a Robin Hood tale, for better and for worse.
Maid Marian is portrayed as spunky and beautiful — and perhaps no actress on TV these days is pulling off that combination quite so winningly as Durance does as Lois Lane on “Smallville.” As it is on that TV show, the scenes in which she appears are among the best in the movie. In her role as Marian, Durance doesn’t take on an English accent, but the voice she uses is probably the much better choice. It fits her character and never proves distracting.
Also excellent is Julian Sands, who brings a lot of menacing charm to his role as Malcolm. In different hands, the role of Malcolm could have been an excuse for an actor to chew some scenery, but Sands plays the character at a perfect pitch.
Not quite as well cast is Robin Dunne in the lead role as Robin Hood. A quick glance at his IMDb page reveals the actor to be 33 years old, but he looks more like he is in his mid-20s. He doesn’t quite have the gravitas of a Robin Hood that would scare the powers that be while giving the people hope. Dunne is a charming actor, and I’m sure he would be perfect for other parts, but he doesn’t quite cut it as the prince of thieves.
Making matters worse for Dunne is his beard, which is too perfectly trimmed, and his hair, which is much too styled. For someone who lives in the forest (in the year 1174), a more rugged look would be fitting … and far less distracting. However, this is a minor annoyance overall, as the movie’s costumes, done by Allisa Swanson, are pitch-perfect. Throughout the movie, I noticed how remarkably well done the costumes were — and this is something I never notice.
The score, by Darren Fung, is up to the job, complementing the acting quite well and never upstaging the actors or the action.
The special effects, especially the work with the dragon, are about what you would expect from a TV movie. Most times, they worked just fine, but there were certainly a few “that looks so fake” moments sprinkled throughout the movie.
On the whole, “Beyond Sherwood Forest” is an entertaining way to spend an hour and a half. I wouldn’t suggest going in expecting the world, but if you are game for a new take on some familiar heroes, “Beyond Sherwood Forest” hits the mark.
“Beyond Sherwood Forest” arrived on DVD Feb. 23 and the blu-ray is scheduled to be released May 25.
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