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Pointless 're-imagining'

Review: 'Musketeer' not worth a shot

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- The new film "The Musketeer" could have been called "Crouching Stupidity, Hidden Plot." This re-imaging of "The Three Musketeers," that classic tale by Alexandre Dumas, is supposedly justified by the use of 17th-century swordplay, combined with state-of-the-art Hong Kong-style action choreography by Xin-Xin Xiong. The last major film to be "re-imagined" was Tim Burton's recent debacle "Planet Of The Apes," and once again all that term means is a bad script slathered with over-the-top action sequences.

Unfortunately, again just like "Apes," "The Musketeer" will make millions during its opening weekend because of its kick-ass trailer, and smart marketing which is aimed directly at adolescent males -- of all ages.

Another aspect of the "re-imaging" of this old chestnut -- this is the eighth "Musketeer film" -- is that this time around, when the pink-cheeked Musketeer wannabe, D' Artagnan (Justin Chambers) arrives in Paris, he finds Aramis (Nick Moran), Athos (Gregor Kremp), and Porthos (Steve Speirs) dejected and abandoned by King Louis XIII (Daniel Mesguich). The Musketeers have been disbanded by Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea), with help from his evil, one-eyed henchman Febre (Tim Roth), who has framed them for the murder of the Spanish ambassador.


So instead of "all for one and one for all," D'Artagnan is reduced to "all for me."

Wait, it gets worse. The imbecilic script by Gene Quintano forces 21st-century sensibilities and attitudes onto the characters in a 17th-century story. The results are mind-numbingly moronic. In all fairness, there is some witty repartee here and there, but it's at the sacrifice of any kind of believability, and ultimately not worth the cheap laughs.

Ludicrous on top

Then there is the much ado about the action sequences. The gravity-defying, balletic fight scenes sprinkled throughout the film find the border between remarkable and ludicrous, and ludicrous ends up winning every time.

Director/cinematographer Peter Hyams' ("End of Days," 1999) heavy-handed direction, lack of pacing, choppy editing, and total disdain towards the original source material results in a sophomoric romp that is a waste of celluloid. However, the production design by Peter Harrison (who has had a long collaboration with Hyams) is stunning in its attention to detail. The 17th-century streets of Paris have never looked so gritty and real. Too bad his work can't be used in another film covering the same time period.

"The Musketeer" is also a prime example of a bad movie happening to good actors. Catherine Deneuve is completely wasted as the Queen of France and Mena Suvari is hopelessly miscast as Francesca, the requisite young maiden. Chambers is appealing as the earnest D'Artagnan, and hopefully will soon find another role that doesn't require hair extensions.

Roth, however, is totally One-dimensional in his role as Febre, and to add insult to injury he's dressed from head-to-toe in black leather, which makes him squish across the screen looking like a demented refugee from a 17th-century S&M club. On the other hand, Stephen Rea is somehow able to maintain his dignity as the evil Richelieu.

They dupe horses, don't they?

In the spirit of kicking a movie while it's down, there is one scene that is particularly ridiculous. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with "Mister Ed" knows that horses sleep standing up, and never go down on their side unless they're giving birth or dying.

Nevertheless, after D'Artagnan rides his horse practically to death, his valiant steed collapses -- at which time our young hero pats it on the head saying something along the lines of "you take a nap, I'll be back to get you." Huh?

Bottom line: The story of the legendary Musketeers has been done to distraction. Part of that reason is because Dumas is Hollywood's favorite type of writer -- dead.

But there have been some decent versions, most notably "The Four Musketeers," done back in 1974 by British director Richard Lester. That film, starring Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee, Faye Dunaway and Charlton Heston remains the best telling of this wonderful, but overly done, tale.

So do yourself a favor: Save a few bucks and rent the 1974 film. And forget about "The Musketeer."

• 'The Musketeer'

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