THE THREE MUSKETEERS (PG-13 for some mild profanity, swashbuckling violence, suggestive sexual situations): Some critics ducked the bad choices in casting as well as the unfunny, excessively corny attempts to inject ongoing humor into Alexander Dumas' classic adventure novel, to focus on the stupidity in acting & production - recognizing that scriptwriters Alex Litvak & Andrew Davies actually meant their material to be funny, to be a ridiculous romp in the Monty Python mode, and chuckled at it. I wanted to enjoy the low-brow comedy as well, but found, ultimately, that there's nothing worse than a joke that goes awry. And for all the money wasted on recreating the period in magnificent sets (some actually shot in Versailles or the mock-up at the Louvre), costumes, mobs of extras, etc., what a pitiful extravagance!
Casting: One wonders how it was done - blindfolded, drawing names from a hat? While the three musketeers gambol bravely through their roles with a certain amount of flair, the fourth addition portrays himself like a priggish juvenile teen-idol, nose perpetually in the air (even during dueling sequences) as he woos & is occasionally wooed by a lady in waiting - she, too, the softly lovely teen-type who renders her few lines like a high school amateur. The same could be said of the king, lisping & limp-wristed, playing an effeminate idiot without really "acting" at all. Probably worst of all is the portrayal of the arch menace Cardinal Richelieu, who remained far too subdued, almost obsequiously so, in the background, reciting his lines as if totally unsure of their meaning.
But even worse than casting is the mostly inept direction from Paul W.S.Anderson, who flings everything he has in his shabby bag of tricks into words & actions that, apparently to him, are hilarious, when in reality they sink like lead balloons. I am in mind of a great cartoon from Esquire Magazine in which a full page is filled with what appears to be the destruction of Rome - fire, wreckage, thousands of people dashing about - and in front of it all is a self-appreciative director with camera next to him, with a wave of his hand, chirps, "Cut!"
It's that kind of directive phoniness that has spoiled many a film, but never one so expensively mounted as this fiasco, one that has been referred to, politely, as making diner de chien (dog's food) of Dumas' classic. (Grade: C-)