Unlike several film critics out there, I do not have a bullseye painted on the back of director Paul W.S. Anderson. Yes, he directed sloppy, goofy films like Soldier and Mortal Kombat, but he also directed the creepy Event Horizon, the kooky Resident Evil, and the carnage-laden Death Race. Those three films alone give Anderson a better track record than Michael Bay in my book. So the man makes mindless genre films for a hungry global audience, so what? He's certainly a more accomplished matinee-maker than a lot of the glorified stunt coordinators who call themselves action directors these days.
I offer this unrequested defense at the outset of this review because, frankly, Mr. Anderson's latest film, the umpteenth unwanted version of Dumas' The Three Musketeers, is - and I say this without fear of exaggeration or embellishment - one of the stupidest movies of the last ten years. Maybe ten decades. One hardly knows where to begin...
This is a Three Musketeers rendition that offers a dogfight between blimp airships. It's a version of The Three Musketeers that somehow manages to copy both the "laser hallway" from Resident Evil and the big vertical leap from Underworld ... despite the fact that the film takes place, ostensibly, in the 17th century. And the computer-generated stupidity never ends: absurdly massive hallways decorated with hundreds of bright chandeliers, patently unconvincing establishing shots that look like cut-away scenes from a 1992 video game, and lots of inescapably inept FX work on the numerous overblown, unexciting set pieces.
And then there's the screenplay. Wow. It's uncertain if Paul W.S. Anderson asked his screenwriters to concoct a farce, but given the man's previous films, I'd say probably not. When the movie isn't lurching through its chintzy, perfunctory action scenes, it's laden with dialogue so inane it boggles the mind; 60% of the dialogue is hollow banter among wooden heroes, and the other 40% is certifiably stupid. It's clear that Anderson wanted a lighter touch on The Three Musketeers, but this director knows comedy like Sarah Palin knows Jeopardy answers. Wait until you see how Anderson portrays the most foppish king ever to wield a scepter; it would make Michael Bay cringe. The end result is an unpleasant eyesore that runs 110 interminable minutes that insults your intelligence while it assaults your eyeballs with digital detritus.
One can only assume that generally colorful character actors like Ray Stevenson, Christoph Waltz, and Mads Mikkelsen were well-paid for pantomiming their way through such a formless production, but the rest of the cast barely seems to try. They range from blandly noble (Matthew Macfadyen) to completely lost (Logan Lerman) to legitimately insane ... and by that I mean the performance of Orlando Bloom. Wow. Let's just say that there's "diving into a villain role with much delight" and then there's "overacting to such a giddy degree that your brain will simply refuse to comprehend what it is seeing." As for the lovely Milla Jovovich, she's saddled with more bad dialogue than one hundred Resident Evil sequels could ever provide, and she's given a bunch of slap-happy action nonsense that you'll simply have to see to disbelieve. But don't, because this is one seriously bad movie.
An editorial mess, an atonal wreck, and a huge waste of cash from inception to release, this new Three Musketeers is almost stunningly bad. It's a pork-induced visual nightmare that combines the recent Sherlock Holmes, the world's oldest cliches, and an insulting lack of effort from all involved. This may actually earn a place alongside infamous titles like Catwoman, Battlefield Earth, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Yeah, it's that kind of bad.
The Three Musketeers opens across the U.S. today in wide release. Check local listings for theaters and showtimes, if you must.