The Three Musketeers
1 1/2 stars (out of 4)
“There are no grand causes left,” righteous Aramis (Luke Evans) moans in The Three Musketeers, and weary viewers can sympathize.
The very existence of this film illustrates barrel-scraping desperation of the Hollywood kind.
The Internet Movie Database lists 55 film and TV versions of Alexandre Dumas’s swashbuckling adventure classic, dating back to 1903. They include an animated Disney comedy starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy and another featuring a Barbie doll.
The material has been more than amply raided for both drama and farce, adding redundancy to incompetence for this latest incarnation. The fact that the story is being told in 3-D for possibly the first time is of no consolation whatsoever.
Irredeemable hack Paul W.S. Anderson directs, using the same sledgehammer approach he exhibited in guiding Death Race, Alien vs. Predator, Resident Evil and other brainless amusements towards the dimmest reaches of the multiplex.
Anderson and schizophrenic scripters Alex Litvak (Predators) and Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice) grind grey matter in a story that combines steampunk contraptions, Matrix bullet-time moves, Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones plotting and paycheque casting.
The saga is still set mainly in 17th-century France, as per Dumas’s novel, but the actors have English, American and German accents.
And the action hinges not on a plot to compromise the queen, but on a motorized airship of a kind that didn’t exist until the mid-19th century.
Carping about anachronisms hardly seems worth the effort when the casting is so ripe for skewering.
While the title Musketeers are merely okay — Matthew Macfadyen and Ray Stevenson join Evans as Athos, Porthos and Aramis respectively — the choice of 19-year-old Logan Lerman to play Musketeer conscript d’Artagnan is nothing short of mind-boggling.
With his Bieber-meets-Beatles hairstyle and frat-boy demeanour, he looks and acts far too young for the role and gets more screen time than he deserves. His limited talents make him better suited to playing the role of Otter in an Animal House remake.
Almost as appalling is the selection of Anderson’s wife, Milla Jovovich, to turn Milady de Winter from Dumas’s woman of intrigue into a wire-fu wannabe. Jovovich’s gorgeous gowns — costumes are the film’s only plus — put on a better performance than she does.
At least Jovovich (literally) throws herself into her work, unlike the phoned-in performances by Christoph Waltz as the scheming Cardinal Richelieu, Orlando Bloom as the laddish Duke of Buckingham and Mads Mikkelsen as pirate-eyed troublemaker Captain Rochefort.
What passes as a plot begins with Athos, Porthos, Aramis and Milady breaking into a booby-trapped vault in Venice purported to have belonged to Leonardo da Vinci.
They’re after something that figures later in the tale. The first of many reversals of fortune occur, and the Musketeers find themselves doing menial tasks back in France, with Aramis bemoaning the dearth of grand causes.
Adventure beckons with the bumptious arrival of young d’Artagnan, who seems too stupid to realize that he’s in mortal danger, but only of the PG-13 variety.
He serves to get the Musketeers out of their funk. The four team for a convoluted and preposterous story about an antique zeppelin, purloined diamonds, scheming weasels and a threat to the foppish French king Louis XIII (Freddie Fox, channelling Russell Brand) and his adored queen (Juno Temple).
Did I mention that it’s all in 3-D?
Not that you can even notice behind the garish CGI renderings, stage-bound sets and tepid fight scenes that resemble an amusement park war re-enactment. These Musketeers are all swish and no sword.
Peter Howell is a syndicated movie critic for the Toronto Star.