A week or two ago, Republibot 1.0 (My boss) reviewed "The Three Musketeers." (You can read it online here http://republibot.com/content/movie-review-three-musketeers-2011 ) Despite the fact that it wasn't at all a glowing review, I found some aspects of it fascinating (Airships. Milla. Etc. No, really, there's no "Etc" about it, it's just Milla and Airships, truth be told) so I decided to see the movie myself and review it *only* if something interesting struck me about it. We don't generally do multiple reviews of the same film, after all.
As it happens, I ended up with a different take on it than the boss. Not amazingly different, I just think there's a subtext here that explains the pervading awfulness.
This is an unabashedly stupid movie, but it just might be the *cleverest* stupid movie I’ve ever seen. The film it’s closest to in style, spirit and purpose is “Team America: World Police,” and it its own way, it’s even less restrained, though it’s also far less pointed. There’s some really funny stuff here, but you have to squint to find it. This is far more effort than most people are willing to put into a bad movie, however, and as I said: this is an unabashedly stupid one.
No, wait. Not “Unabashedly.” It is, in fact, *refreshingly, self-confidently* stupid. Just the same, the professional critics weren't kind.
Which is a shame, because in *not* being kind, the critics played right into the hands of the people who made this film. If you’re the stodgy “Why I never! They destroyed Dumas’ novel! Blah blah blah! Artistic veracity! Blah blah blah! Respect for literature! Blah blah blah! Michael York!” kind of person, then you are *EXACTLY* then this really is *exactly* the movie you should be seeing, because then you’d be in on the joke instead of the butt of it. Likewise, if you actually enjoy the movie at face value, you are *also* the butt of the same joke. That’s right: The same running gag victimizes fans and foes alike. That’s a tough trick to pull off, but they manage it.
As I said, this is one *clever* movie.
PLAY BY PLAY
You’re kidding, right? You want me to tell you the plot of “The Three Musketeers?” Come on, read a book why don’t’cha? Or just watch of the 45-or-so previous versions. The one with Michael York really is pretty good, and Raquel Welch is in there too, so: something for everyone.
Apart from a deliberately James Bondy opening sequence, the details of the story really are pretty close to the novel, which is, of course, part of the gag.
So here’s the deal: this movie is *entirely* deliberate, obvious parody of the Hollywood Summer Blockbuster Machine.
Take a story, any story, no matter how beloved, tart it up, hire a great cast but don’t let them do anything, boil characterization down to less-than-nothing, take a hot chick and let her kick some ass, throw in a couple overblown action set pieces, some exotic locations, a jiffy-pop resolution, and a tag for a sequel that will, in all likelihood, never get made. All the ingredients are here, right down to hiring a more or less personality-free carbon blob for the male lead (“He’s young, he’s hip, he’s now, he's instantly forgettable!”), stunt-casting people who are known for swordplay more than thespianism (Milla and Orlando), a bland Howard Shore-styled soundtrack (He’s like John Williams for boring people who don't like music!) and a script that revels in making every fifth line a deliberate, cringing cliché. I mean, it’s even got a completely incongruous pointless M.O.R. adult contemporary love ballad playing over the closing credits. How much more proof do you need?
Examples: “It’s what we do. It’s who we are.” “Afraid to face me in a fair fight?” “No, I just don’t fight fair.” “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business,” The dialog isn’t just bad, it’s deliberately bad. The whole movie is. It’s winking at you the whole time.
Performances are the same way: Milla is just the sexiest thing on two legs. You know the old joke about the gay dude who gets aroused by a super-hot chick hitting on him, and afterwards his friends ask him what was up with that? He says, “I’m gay, I’m not dead.” Well, Milla is hot enough to turn on dead guys. Seriously: Michael Jackson is stalking her, and he's both gay *AND* dead. But in this movie, she’s doing a sexless performance of a sexy person. She’s doing an impression of what someone *thinks*