There have been a number of film adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers including one recently released starring among others Logan Lerman, Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich. I have not watched that one, and I don’t think I’ll be bothered to watch it either. I did watch the Disney production released in November 1993. With almost 20 years having elapsed since then, how does it bear up?
D’Artagnan (Chris O’Donnell) is a young buck who has in him the desire to join France’s celebrated Musketeers who have a cavalier reputation for their honour, bravery and integrity. Unbeknownst to him the whole set-up is being dismantled by the machinations of the heavily influential Cardinal Richelieu (Tim Curry) who has been able to influence the young King Louis III. Richelieu’s plans, however, is for more than the dissolution of the Musketeers, he plots to claim the throne for his own through a scheme to get the English to help remove the young King through the help of Milady de Winter.
Meanwhile the efforts of d’Artagnan brings him into brief conflict with three outstanding musketeers. The religious lover Aramis (Charlie Sheen), the troubled but brave Athos (Kiefer Sutherland) and the witty bon viveur Porthos (Oliver Platt). As he overcomes this brief altercation with them as they share a hatred of the Cardinal’s guards, he finds himself embroiled in the Cardinal’s plans, for he has connections with the Cardinal’s Captain Rochefort (Michael Wincott).
The Three Musketeers swing into action on realising through d’Artagnan’s the dastardly plan of the Cardinal, and there ensues a race against time to prevent the plot being realised and save the heart of France itself.
It is clear from the start that if you were looking for a faithful adaptation of the heart and spirit of Dumas’ classic, you would have to look elsewhere. Likewise if you were one of those keen to see a good presentation of aspects of the culture of the time, then this was not your film. With the actors involved and the general feel of the film, what you were getting hear was Hollywood’s contribution to the swashbuckling genre on Hollywood’s terms and condition.
I the sense of being a romp this film works a treat. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, it stays just about within the realm of telling a story and not being a complete parody by the general movement of the narrative. It is about the action set-ups, though and the chance for the main actors to show their chops.
If you relaxed about that, then you should generally enjoy this film. The performance of Oliver Platt is particularly enjoyable, it appears as if he is having fun playing a character who appears as if he is having fun. Meanwhile if anything takes you away from the whole attempt of the film to reflect France and the Musketeers and all that it is the part played by Charlie Sheen. Whatever he does, however hard he does his role, you still get the impression that you’re watching Charlie Sheen being Charlie Sheen in a slightly restrained manner. Kiefer Sutherland attempts to put some gravitas in the piece, but when you’re looking to be the moody and serious one with a bunch of characters to some extent hamming up their roles, it can be a forlorn effort.
Yet the real screen-stealer is the over the top performance by Tim Curry as Cardinal Richelieu. He had it all to be a truly cartoonish villain, he need not have twirled his moustache to have made his characterisation anymore extreme. Every time he’s on, he demands the focus and the attention and all he needed to do was give the evil laugh more of a run out and you would feel that it was indeed an episode of Dogtanian and the Muskehounds you were watching.
Let me not dwell on the Chris O’Donnell part. O’Donnell has looked to have made a career of playing parts that just rub people up the wrong way. This is not as bad as some of the others – like his stint as Robin to Kilmer and Clooney’s Batman. It is still an annoying performance, but thankfully he’s not the central focus of the film, and cannot be with relative heavyweights like Sheen and Sutherland around and when Curry is eating up anyone within reach.
As for the song co-written by Bryan Adams who is then joined by Sting and Rod Stewart – well it sums up the movie perfectly – it is a bit cheesy, but not that bad a movie pop track.
Whilst this film, then, will never go down as the greatest film of all time, or even of its genre, if you’re just up to zonking out to something that’s a bit of fun, this a good film to be recommended.