I can remember when The Three Musketeers came out, not because I got to see it in the theater, but because of my friend Jesse. Her aunt took her to see it, IIRC, and as Jesse was a couple years older than me and significantly more boy-crazy, she fell head-over-heels for Charlie Sheen in this movie. She told me alllllll about it, and I remember seeing the display for it at the video store when it finally came to video and knowing Jesse must be very excited that she'd get to see it again.
I myself finally got to watch it when it aired on network TV some years later, probably around 1996. We recorded it, but unfortunately, it played on one of the stations we didn't get very clearly, so our copy was fuzzy, with wavery music.
My brother and I did not care. We were so enthusiastically enchanted with this movie, he dressed as a Musketeer for Halloween that year. By then, I was old enough to develop a crush on my own Musketeer, namely Chris O'Donnell. In fact, I named my new cat d'Artagnan soon after seeing this.
Truth be told, I prefer this movie to the actual book by Alexandre Dumas. It's sweeter, for one thing, and even though the main characters are roguish, none of them are downright bad. In the book... well, let's just say I disapprove of things they do in the book.
Anyway, time for the movie! Get cozy with a snack, maybe a cold beverage... this is going to be a lot of fun.
The movie opens with Cardinal Richelieu (Tim Curry) visiting dungeons with his sidekick Rochefort (Michael Wincott). They plot some evil plottyness about overthrowing the king because, of course, that's their job.
Meanwhile, somewhere out in the French countryside (which is played in this movie by Austria and England, I believe), two guys are having a duel! This movie does not take long to start the swashing and buckling.
One of the duelers is a comely lad named d'Artagnan (Chris O'Donnell) in a really nice shirt.
He's clearly the better swordsman.
And he has a pretty sword, too. (Reportedly, Chris O'Donnell got to keep this sword after filming ended. Envvvvyyyyyyyy.)
This is his opponent. They're dueling because this guy, Girard (Paul McGann), says d'Artagnan has compromised his sister's honor, basically.
Yup, you read that correctly! This is Paul McGann, the Eighth Doctor, and also Mr. Bush in the Horatio Hornblower movies from A&E. Albeit with a bad wig and some very goofy facial expressions.
Girard has brothers, and they all arrive to avenge their sister too, so d'Artagnan decides that he who fights and runs away will live to fight another day, and he takes off for Paris.
For a piece of Disney popcorn, this movie has some really beautiful filming. I love this shot of a burning Musketeer flag -- it's almost like a classical painting, with the drapey fabric and juxtaposition of the cheerful blue with the sinister orange.
Anyway, back to the plot. Here's this guy again. Michael Wincott definitely rocks that eye patch.
Look at all the Musketeers! So many jolly Musketeers. They're the king's personal guard, by the way, not just a bunch of guys who like blue tunics and swords and occasionally use a musket. They do have an actual raison d'être aside from looking cool.
Since they're the king's guard, and Richelieu and Rochefort are plotting to overthrow the king, the Musketeers must be disposed of, so Richelieu disbands them, claiming it's the king's orders. Rochefort is not sad about this. Also, his hat is amazing, and he knows it.
Look, another really nice shot! The Musketeer sword abandoned in defeat, the burning uniforms behind it -- love the composition here.
Speaking of pretty filming, what a nice windmill.
Speaking of pretty, d'Artagnan has his own very wonderful hat.
I mean, wow. That hat. I want it.
Anyway, while on his way to Paris, d'Artagnan sees two women on horseback, racing away from two men. He leaps to the rescue and takes out the two guys, assuming they're bandits or white slavers or whatever. Turns out that the women he rescued were Queen Anne (Gabrielle Anwar) and her lady-in-waiting, Constance (Julie Delpy). They weren't actually in Deadly Peril -- the dudes he knocked out were the Queen's guards, not her attackers. Oops.
Constance finds this hilarious. So here's one thing they changed from the book that I LOVE: in this movie, Constance is single. In the book, she's not a lady-in-waiting, she's d'Artagnan's Paris landlord's wife. And they have this long, torrid affair. Blech. So much nicer here, where she's single, he's single, and they flirt cutely with each other.
Another shot I love! Director Stephen Herek (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Mr. Holland's Opus) uses a LOT of high-angle and low-angle shots. This one showing d'Artagnan in Paris, searching for Musketeer Headquarters, is just so cool -- you totally get the feeling there's someone watching him. Maybe lying in wait. Love it.
Then this low-angle shot of him with the doors towering over him. Still loving it. Also, that riding cape/cloak thing? I want one of those too. Basically, if I was a guy, I would dress like d'Artagnan every day if I could.
Our hero makes his way inside, where he finds a mysterious and sinister stranger named Athos (Kiefer Sutherland) crouching in front of the fire where the Musketeer flag was recently burned.
Harsh words ensue. D'Artagnan takes offense at the stranger's rude replies to his polite questions and challenges him to a duel. Gotta admit, d'Artie is kind of duel-happy.
Back outside, who should show up but Girard and his brothers, still trying to avenge their sister's honor (even though d'Artagnan insists that "nothing happened" between him and the sister). A chase ensues, and while fleeing, d'Artagnan knocks against a table and spills wine all over Porthos (Oliver Platt).
Porthos jumps up and yells at d'Artie for his clumsiness. He says, "This sash was a gift to me from the Queen of America." D'Artagnan is all, "There's no Queen of America." Porthos gets mad and insists there is, and he's on "very intimate terms" with her, and challenges our hero to a duel.
D'Artie (this is totally my pet name for him, not one used in the movie) is like, "I love duels! Great idea!" (That's also me paraphrasing, not what he says.)
Now, if you're thinking that Oliver Platt looks an awful lot here like a certain pirate who roams the Caribbean in a bunch of Disney movies made about ten years after this, well... I think so too. In fact, when I first saw the trailers for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl back in 2003, I was so excited because Captain Jack Sparrow's outfit reminded me so much of this one, and there were several shots that made me think of stuff that happens later in this movie.
Okay, so then we cut to this scene of a woman who can't afford to buy enough clothes (I'm afraid this is a big problem for several female characters in the film) being taught theology by Aramis (Charlie Sheen), who gives up teaching in favor of kissing, only to learn that his pupil is married. At least he has the decency to be shocked about this.
He jumps out of her window to escape her wrathful husband and lands on d'Artagnan. And do you think d'Artagnan is happy to have helped a stranger not kill himself jumping out of some woman's window?
Maaaaaaaaaaaaan, I love that hat.
Yeah, you're right, d'Artie's not cool with this. So guess what he and Aramis challenge each other to?
"Three duels in one day." ::Insert casual eyebrow quirk here::
Meanwhile... isn't the palace pretty?
Cardinal Plotty McPlotterpants is up to no good, as usual. He's a lecherous and nasty guy who loves insert broad innuendo into every scene he has with a female character. In other words, your basic Tim Curry character.
Queen Anne doesn't like him, doesn't trust him, and doesn't care if he knows it.
Queen Anne and King Louis are very young and very awkward and very cute together, and I wish they had a lot more scenes.
But we can't waste time with royalty being cute when we have Musketeer business to attend to! Rochefort learns there are three Musketeers (guess who?) who have refused to turn in their swords and uniforms with the rest. He goes to the tavern where they're hanging out, intending to arrest them. Which goes as well as you might expect.
After spewing insults at Rochefort (my favorite is, "Rochefort... isn't that a smelly kind of cheese?"), the three miscreants escape. Which reminds me -- don't expect period-correct dialog from this movie. They talk in a mix of modern and archaic that I find enchanting, but some might be annoyed by.
Okay, so d'Artagnan discovers that his three dueling opponents not only know each other, they're the famous Musketeers he's been searching for! His father was a Musketeer, but died mysteriously, leaving his son only his fancy sword and a vague sense of destiny.
Before d'Artagnan and Athos can finish their duel, a bunch of the Cardinal's guards come to arrest them. I have no idea why, but this dude in the middle is also played by Paul McGann. Because why not?
Now I have a confession to make. I just love every time these three guys are all in the same frame, so you can expect a lot of shots from here on out where they're all together. Also... they have great hats too.
D'Artagnan wants to help them fend off the Cardinal's guards. They think he's an idiot, but finally agree. Especially when they learn what his name is -- they all exchange Meaningful Glances at that, and say vague things about having known his father.
And now they're prepared to resist arrest.
Much swashbuckling swordplay ensues.
Back in the creepy part of town, more pretty scenery!
Oh yeah, the three Musketeers totally did not invite d'Artie to join their merry band, and he ended up getting captured by Rochefort, who recognizes his sword and taunts him about his father.
Cardinal is far too happy to see her.
Not that she has any trouble fending him off. It's time for more plotting, so they make plans for getting the Duke of Buckingham to form an alliance with Richelieu to help overthrow the king.
Off goes Milady, and in comes d'Artagnan. He overheard what she was talking about with Richelieu, and he refuses to be in any way cooperative about promising to keep things a secret and so on. Off with his head!
Gotta hand it to d'Artagnan -- he approaches the chopping block very bravely. I'm proud of him.
Now, you may remember that this is a Disney movie. They're not going to chop off the main character's head. Aramis pops up to assure us, and d'Artagnan, that all will be well.
Girard is back again, rejoicing that his sister's would-be seducer is about to have his head removed. If you ask me, the dude needs to calm down, but hey.
There are some awesome exteriors in this movie. According to imdb.com, they did a lot of filming in Austria and England, so I'm guessing this is part of that.
Naturally, the Three Musketeers rescue d'Artagnan. A joyous chase scene ensues.
There's a coach, there's a bunch of the Cardinal's guards on horses, and it's simply grand.
Unfortunately, chase scenes are really hard to screencap. So you'll just have to watch it for yourself to get the full effect. Eventually, the four good guys ride off through the beautiful countryside, having vanquished all their foes by being so doggone cool.
I know this is the bad guy, but isn't that pretty?
Okay, so the four heroes celebrate their triumphant escape by hanging out at a tavern, where Porthos and Aramis try to teach d'Artagnan the fine art of wenching. Which involves kissing girls, nothing more. Disney movie, folks. Disney movie.
Athos doesn't join in the revelry. He sits in the dark alone, drinking and brooding.
D'Artagnan, being an extrovert, thinks this is terrible. Athos allows d'Artagnan to come join him, even though he would rather be alone, and he's drunk enough wine that he decides to confide his sad, tragic backstory in his young protege.
More pretty exteriors.
And more pretty interiors.
Okay, so this is the most not-family-friendly scene in the whole movie. Queen Anne is taking a bath, and she and Constance are chatting about boys. Like, Constance thinks d'Artagnan is super cute, and Anne confides that she wishes she and Louis knew each other better. Sweet girl talk -- that part's fine. But then when Constance goes to fetch Queen Anne's robe, Anne stands up out of the tub and we only see her bare back from about her elbows up, and someone puts her robe around her shoulders. But it's not Constance. It's Icky von Ickface. I tend to fast-forward through that bit just because, ugh, he's such a creeper. I have to mention this part, though, because I don't want you to be like, "Whoa, this movie sounds awesome! I'm going to get it and watch it with my little kids/siblings!" and then get to this part and be like, "WHAT WAS HAMLETTE THINKING? This is so grosssssssssss!" Now you've been warned.
Meanwhile, Athos, Porthos, Aramis, and d'Artagnan have split up so they have a better chance of stopping Richelieu's spy who's supposed to be sailing over to England with a treaty for the Duke of Buckingham, etc. D'Artagnan is overcome with weariness and falls off his horse onto the road. Poor thing.
He leaps out of bed, at which point we happily learn that he's wearing... capris, basically. His underdrawers, I guess. I'm sorry if you were hoping for some beefcake screencaps, but I kind of just didn't take any except this one of him shirtless because um... I didn't.
And a sword fight aboard a ship! Buckle, buckle, swash swash.
Athos discovers, to his great shock, that the spy is none other than Somebody That He Used To Know. (Oh, come on, I don't want to spoil EVERYTHING.)
Look! I got all of them in the same frame again :-)
So then they summon all their Musketeer friends in the coolest way possible. Notes on arrows -- I want to send messages this way!
There is absolutely no reason for the camera to be tilted this way, except that it looks kinda cool.
Queen Anne and King Louis have come to a New Understanding, and are ready to move past Smiling Awkwardly At Each Other into the new land of Looking Deeply Into Each Others' Eyes.
More swashbuckling ahead!
Lots of it, considering the Three Musketeers are facing about thirty of the Cardinal's Guards.
D'Artagnan is busy having a fight on the roof, you see, and can't help them out this time.
So then Cardinal Richelieu decides the best plan is to kidnap the king and queen.
D'Artagnan also disagrees. He has a glorious fight with Rochefort. Athos, Porthos, and Aramis rescue the king and queen. There's a lot of sword fighting and chasing, and this whole nasty dungeon scene, and a really cool underground lake, but honestly, this review is soooooooooooo long already that I'm just going to say "Get this movie and watch it, it's cool!" and leave it at that.
So pretty. Look at our heroes all together again! I love this shot. Look how everything's all matchy-matchy with the blue and gold everywhere -- just awesome.
I promise d'Artagnan's not getting his head chopped off here either.
He gets to be a Musketeer! And below is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PART OF THE MOVIE. The four of them striding around in their boots and their hats and their capey tunic things, with their swords -- they are on top of the world, and I want to be one of them sooooooo stinking badly it's not even funny.
One for all, and all for one! (This might be the best shot in the whole movie.)
And then Girard shows up again, and we have to chase him off, because that loose plot thread just refuses to get tied up. The end!
Is this movie family friendly? Um, not for little kids. I haven't shown it to mine yet. It's rated PG, but I would have rated it PG-13, to be honest. Of course it has a lot of swordfighting, chase scenes, and some guns, which are really exciting to me, but my kids would find them too tense. And I didn't really mention this a lot, but there's this icky dungeon with people getting beaten and whipped, and torture is implied. Parts of that are quite scary. Also, there's a lot of cleavage on display, and the Cardinal in particular has a lot of innuendo in his dialog. There's very little profanity, but there are a couple instances of God's name getting taken in vain, and there's kind of a flippant attitude toward religion in general, though not to the point where I'm offended.
This has been my contribution to the Swashathon, an epic blogathon celebrating all things swashbuckler, hosted by Movies Silently. Now that I've finally finished this review, I'm going to start reading the other entries -- they all look so much fun! I hope you find time to read them too.
P.S. If you love blogathons, I'm hosting one in honor of Alan Ladd in September. Click here for details.