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3D 'Three' brandishes sharp blades, dull wit.

FILM: THE THREE MUSKETEERS (SUMMIT)

U.S.-Germany-France-U.K.

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson; Cast: Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz, Milla Jovovich

With its airborne CGI galleons, 3D format and an armed Milady who hides rappelling equipment beneath her corset, helmer Paul W. S. Anderson's version of "The Three Musketeers" is a very 2011 take on Alexandre Dumas' classic that feels weirdly dated already. Although adequately entertaining thanks to lavish production values and game supporting perfs, this anodyne adaptation lacks a killer hook that would help it cross over to a demographic beyond action buffs and fanboys. Canny calendar positioning should help Summit's October release Stateside, but the pic will swash more buckle overseas, where the title has more cachet.

Not too long ago, it looked as though this American-German-French-British co-production would be one of two new 3D adaptations of "Three Musketeers" this year, alongside Warner Bros.' Doug Liman-helmed version. Whatever the reasons that project was put on hold, one can't help but wonder if there might have been well-founded doubts about how well Dumas' 17th century-set tale of chivalry, camaraderie and courtly intrigue could be remixed for con-tempo auds without diluting it beyond all recognition.

Indeed, the script here struggles to find a balance between the sensibilities of Alex Litvak, best known for writing "Grayskull" and "Predators," and Andrew Davies, who built his rep on tony literary adaptations for British TV such as "Pride and Prejudice" (1995) and "Little Dorrit" (2008). End product lacks Davies' signature verbal sparkle, but also sags in the middle, the way a mainstream action film shouldn't, when it bogs down in all the business about the Queen's purloined necklace (ironically, the bit closest to Dumas' novel).

The opening sequence offers a typical example of how far beyond Dumas the filmmakers are willing to go, as the Musketeers, soldiers in the employ of France's King Louis (Freddie Fox), are introduced on a secret mission to Venice to snatch plans drawn up by Leonardo Da Vinci for an airship. Joining leader Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), enigmatic ex-priest Aramis (Luke Evans) and jovial muscleman Porthos (Ray Stevenson) on this quest is none other than Milady de Winter herself (Milla Jovovich, Anderson's regular muse), not just a pretty face and a cunning mind, but also a dab hand with a sword and a roundhouse kick.

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Unfortunately, Milady betrays them, as she's secretly in cahoots with Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz, good but somewhat lazily cast as yet another smooth villain). This leaves Athos particularly embittered by the time young, idealistic, Justin Bieber-haired upstart D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) arrives in Paris sometime later from the sticks, keen to become a Musketeer himself.

Richard Lester's "Three Musketeers" (1973) and "Four Musketeers" (1974) made their own significant departures from the books, as nearly every film version has, but they had a bawdy streak that's notably lacking in this very teen-skewed PG-13 incarnation. Louis, for example, is a moon-faced kid basically suffering from a crush on his own wife (Juno Temple, a delight as usual), while D'Artagnan gives him brotherly dating advice. Orlando Bloom plays the Duke of Buckingham like a rivaljock from another school, sneering over Louis' out-of-fashion duds. For an action film, there's an awfnl lot of foppish discussion about clothes going on.

But what glorious clothes they are. Pierre-Yves Gayraud's exquisitely detailed outfits steal scene after scene, in particular the women's gowns, all intricate silk brocades shot through with metallic threads and glinting like jewels. Glen MacPherson's digital lensing has been balanced in post in such a way to let the electric blues on the king's guards' uniforms pop just a bit more intensely, especially in the many bright, sunlit rooms (a mix of Bavarian locations and sets at Berlin's Studio Babelsberg) deployed for the palace scenes.

The use of 3D rather limits the fluidity of the action sequences, which ought to be Anderson's strong suit, but it does nothing but favors for Paul Denham Austerberry's rococo production design.

CREDITS: A Summit Entertainment (in U.S.) release of a Summit Entertainment, Constantin Film presentation of a Constantin Film, Impact Pictures production in co-production with Nef Prods., New Legacy Film, Studio Babelsberg, with the support of Deutseher Filmfoerderfonds, Filmfernsehfonds Bayern, Bayerischer Bankenfonds, Filmfoerderungsaustalt, Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg. (International sales: Summit Entertainment, Santa Monica.) Produced by Jeremy Bolt, Paul W. S. Anderson, Robert Kulzer. Executive producer, Martin Moszkowicz, Christine Rothe. Co-producers, Manuel Malle, Rory Gilmartin, Charlie Woebeken, Christoph Fisser.

Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. Screenplay, Alex Litvak, Andrew Davies, based on the novel by Mexandre Dumas. Camera (color, widescreen, HD, 3D), Glen MacPherson; editor, Mexander Berher; music, Paul Haslinger; music supervisors, Christoph Becker, Pia Hofmann; production designer, Paul Denham Austerbens,; supervising art director, Nigel Churcber, art directors, David Scheunemann, Hucky Hornberger; set decorator, Philippe Turlure; costume designer, Pierre-Yves Gayraud; sound (Dolby Digital), Roland Winke; supervising sound editor, Stefan Busch; re-recording mixers, Michael Kranz, Andrew Stirk; special effects supervisor, Gerd Feuchter; special effects, Die Nefzers; visual effects supervisor, Bennis Berardi; visual effects, Mr. X; fight choreographer, Nick Powell; stunt coordinators, Powell, Volkhart Buff; stereographer, John Harper; line producer, Silvia Tollman; assistant director, Jamie Christopher; second unit director, Nick Powell; second unit camera, Vent Nobles; casting, Suzanne M. Smith. Reviewed at Odeon West End, London, Sept. 21, 2011. (In San Sebastian Film Festival--Velodrome.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 110 MIN.
Athos                    Matthew Maefadyen
Milady de Winter         Milla Jovovich
D'Artagnan               Logan Lerman
Aramis                   Luke Evans
Porthos                  Ray Stevenson
Constance                Gabriella Wilde
Duke of Buckingham       Orlando Bloom
Roehefort                Mads Mikkelsen
Richelieu                Christoph Waltz
Louis                    Freddie Fox
Queen                    Juno Temple
Planchet                 James Corden
Cagliostro               Til Schweiger
D'Artagnan's Father      Dexter Fletcher
D'Artagnan's/'s Mother   Jane Perry
(English dialogue)
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Title Annotation:The Three Musketeers
Author:Felperin, Leslie
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Sep 26, 2011
Words:941
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