05 May 2008

The Three Musketeers (1993)

Three Musketeers Always Good Fun
By Kristin Battestella

Who doesn’t love a swashbuckling fun adventure movie? Before Disney struck platinum with Pirates of The Caribbean, the studio won the hearts of young and old with 1993’s The Three Musketeers. With an all-star cast, fine story, and all the 16th century action one could ask for, The Three Musketeers hasn’t lost any of its charm.

This take on Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale begins with the young D’Artagnan (Chris O’Donnell) and his quest to join the musketeers while avenging his father and earning a reputation for himself. Unfortunately, vile Cardinal Richelieu (Tim Curry) has disbanded the King’s musketeers. D’Artagnan unites with three former musketeers: tormented Athos (Kiefer Sutherland), comedian Porthos (Oliver Platt), and priest turned lover Aramis (Charlie Sheen) in order to stop the crooked Cardinal and his accomplice Lady De Winter (Rebecca De Mornay) in their plot to secretly ally with the English and assassinate King Louis (Hugh O’Conor). 

The Three Musketeers

Without its ensemble cast, The Three Musketeers would most definitely fail. Earlier versions are perhaps now too old for young folks, and the more recent The Musketeer falls on its dark story and talent-less unknowns. Disney’s production shines with its all around performers. Comedic moments come from each star, even former eighties villain Sutherland (The Lost Boys, now of 24 fame). Likewise, humorous and slick moments come from the delightful Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Richelieu. Gabrielle Anwar (The Tudors) always seems perfect in period pieces, and her Queen Anne here fits the bill.

Chris O’Donnell’s star may have fallen with duds like The Bachelor and Batman and Robin, but here he is perfectly cast as the feisty, wide-eyed D’Artagnan. The titular musketeers also have incredible chemistry and onscreen timing with O’Donnell, and regular baddie Michael Wincott (The Crow) is up to the task as their nemesis Rocheford.

Although some may like a more serious musketeer take, The Three Musketeers finds the balance between humor and drama. There’s enough sword fights with snide comments and action tricks with punch lines for the kids-particularly from the on form Oliver Platt as Porthos. The twisted love story between Athos and double agent Rebecca De Mornay, however, adds a serious element to the production.

Today’s actors look so ‘dress up’ in historical films, but the elder cast here brings acting chops and a look for medieval France. The script by David Loughery (Tom and Huck) works with director Stephen Herek’s (The Mighty Ducks) action. There’s old, fanciful speech and straight historical production touched with anachronistic quips. Traditionalists may not like some of the juvenile fun, but this is a Disney live action film.

The Three Musketeers also wins on its design and visual values. The ladies look lovely in their generally accurate gowns, and the action scenes are no slouch. Ambitious multilevel sword fights and chase sequences still look top of the line almost fifteen years later. And remember, there’s no fanciful Lord of the Rings computer images, but Musketeers’ locations and fight choreography still hold merit. Ironically Rings sword master Bob Anderson also choreographed the sword work here.

Another selling point of The Three Musketeers is its sweet score by Award winning composer Michael Kamen (Mr. Holland Opus just to name one). Helped to box office success by the hit single All for One by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting; the song’s melody highlights the instrumentals throughout the picture. There’s nothing an audience can get behind more than a rousing anthem for its onscreen heroes.

As good fun as The Three Musketeers is, one negative is in fact all that goodness. I don’t know how to not seem confusing and contradictory, but after repeated viewings, Disney’s humor, light hearted moments, and nicely wrapped ending can begin to loose their weight. Perhaps The Three Musketeers suffers from too much of a good thing. Like Disney has overkilled its Pirates franchise in the 21st Century, some adults forced on marathon viewings with their kids might find The Three Musketeers a bit overexposed across the board.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how accurate the story is to the book-although The Three Musketeers is almost like Dracula in its familiarity to audiences. Strangely, Dumas’ source novel is one of the rare books that I have sought and ended up putting down partway through. I love every film version of The Three Musketeers from Fairbanks to Michael York’s Three Musketeers and Four Musketeers vehicles in the seventies. I’m not a DiCaprio fan, but the 1998 The Man in The Iron Mask is a mature take that is tough to beat. I even adore Dumas’ Count of Monte Crisco book, but the Musketeers novel fell completely flat for me.

Not everyone today would like the silent Man in The Iron Mask, and kids today might find the aforementioned Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston, and Faye Dunaway 1974 releases hysterical for its heady hijinks and colorful production. Disney’s Musketeers is the perfect introduction piece for a new generation and still enjoyable enough for fans of old.
Parents may want to watch the film without the kids first and check up on the sexual innuendo and implied romances. For young ones still in the coodies age, the lovey dovey scenes and PG sexual remarks might be too much. Character deaths and scary action sequences might also be tough for sensitive children. Concerned parents can scout television listings for an edited airing, but in this day and age, there isn’t really anything in The Three Musketeers with which tweens aren’t familiar. If your kids are Pirates of The Caribbean fans, this film is mild in comparison.

The Three Musketeers is an oft told story worthy of your family’s attention. Take a night in with the 1993 Disney adaptation for the young and old.

No comments: