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The Three Musketeers

Overloaded on effects in ‘Three Musketeers’

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By Mark Feeney
Globe Staff / October 22, 2011

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There have been upward of 40 screen adaptations of “The Three Musketeers.’’ Alexandre Dumas’s classic adventure tale is full of irresistible elements: swordplay, guns (musketeers fire muskets, silly), intrigue, derring-do, loyalty, romance, famous historical names (Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII), heaving bosoms. It’s a can’t-miss storytelling proposition.

The story is can’t-miss even as a video game. There have been three so far. For all intents and purposes this latest outing, directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, brings the number to four. Oh, it’s a movie, all right. But the way the actors pinball around - bungee-jumping, head-butting, piloting airships, using flame-throwers and proto-Gatling guns, moving in slow- and stop-motion, you know, generally acting like 17th-century superheroes - it’s a video game. And that’s just in 2-D. There’s a 3-D version, too.

Call it the Robert Downey Jr. Meets Sherlock Holmes Effect. A classic popular adventure gets overblown, juiced-up, and generally CGI-ified.

Unfortunately, “Musketeers’’ has no one to match Downey’s starpower and charm. As D’Artagnan, Logan Lerman (“Percy Jackson & the Olympians’’) looks like Tim Matheson in “Animal House,’’ only more callow. That may even be intentional. The way Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies have written the script, Richelieu (a glumly underutilized Christoph Waltz) plays like Dean Wormer in a skullcap.

The musketeers are fun, of course, as they defend the honor of the queen of France by trying to recover a stolen diamond necklace. Their combination of camaraderie and high spirits is the key to the story’s enduring appeal. Beefy Ray Stevenson makes for a fine Porthos. Luke Evans is a perfectly acceptable Aramis. Matthew Macfadyen plays Athos, and his cask-of-aged-port voice is the movie’s best special effect. Orlando Bloom’s skyscraper pompadour, as the Duke of Buckingham, is the worst. That hair has to be CGI, right?

Speaking of sound, the real star of this “Musketeers’’ is whoever did the whippy-whooshy sword effects. They’re music to martial ears. That audio engineer might have found the time to help out Milla Jovovich, who plays the treacherous Milady. Her line readings are the sonic equivalent of a 3 Musketeers bar on a bed of profiteroles. CGI is all well and good. But leave a little in the budget for computer-generated audio, too.

Mark Feeney can be reached at

'The Three Musketeers'

Famous foursomes

With "The Three Musketeers" (who were really four fellas), see famous groups of four.


Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson

Written by: Alex Litvak and Andrew Davies; based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas

Starring: Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Milla Jovovich, Luke Evans, Ray Stevenson, Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 110 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (cartoonish violence, sexual innuendo, significant cleavage)

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