They don't write books like The Three Musketeers anymore, so filmmakers just keep plundering the narrative riches of Alexander Dumas's 1844 adventure classic. Unfortunately, this lite version doesn't do the source material justice: It's harmless enough, and features energetic action sequences choreographed by Hong Kong wire-work specialist Xin-Xin Xiong. But the novelty value of seeing 17th-century French swordsmen fight like Chinese martial artists doesn't compensate for the film's generally wooden performances and clichéd dialogue. As a child, country boy D'Artagnan witnesses the murder of his mother and father, a retired musketeer, by the villainous Febre (Tim Roth), who answers to King Louis XIII's (Daniel Mesguich) conniving advisor, Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea). D'Artagnan wants desperately to follow in his father's swashbuckling footsteps, and wily old sword master Planchet (Jean-Pierre Castaldi) takes the orphaned lad under his wing. Fourteen years later, D'Artagnan (former model Justin Chambers) sets out for Paris, hoping to avenge his parents' deaths. Unfortunately, he arrives shortly after the musketeers have fallen victim to Richelieu's machinations: The corps has been decommissioned, their captain (Michael Byrne) has been falsely accused of murder, many musketeers are imprisoned and the rest spend their days squabbling drunkenly. The disillusioned D'Artagnan nevertheless hooks up with former musketeers Porthos (Steve Speirs), Athos (Jan Gregor Kremp) and Aramis (Nick Moran), and falls for feisty, doe-eyed chambermaid Francesca (Mena Suvari), whose mother once served the Queen (Catherine Deneuve). D'Artagnan eventually goes mano a mano with the wicked Febre, helps avert a war and proves himself worthy to wear a musketeer's tunic. By now the story is overly familiar, but the movie's real problem is that screenwriter Gene Quintano and director Peter Hyams don't have a consistent take on it. Hyams generally stresses realism everything is dirty and squalid, and the cinematography leans to gloomy earth tones but keeps the battles all but bloodless; the dialogue is jokey and the characters are delineated in cartoonish strokes. Porthos, Aramis and Athos are, respectively, the fat one, the one with silly facial hair and the other one, while the undeniably pretty Chambers and Suvari have no personalities at all. Roth delivers the kind of Snidely Whiplash performance he perfected in PLANET OF THE APES and ROB ROY, and Rea strives to do something with the underwritten role of Richelieu; Deneuve merely appears to be smiling at some private joke.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: They don't write books like The Three Musketeers anymore, so filmmakers just keep plundering the narrative riches of Alexander Dumas's 1844 adventure classic. Unfortunately, this lite version doesn't do the source material justice: It's harmless enough, an… (more)