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Picks and Pans Review: The Three Musketeers

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Gabrielle Anwar, Tim Curry, Rebecca de Mornay, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Piatt, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland

Here is living demonstration of the word “foolproof,” as it applies to Alexandre Dumas’s romantic, classic adventure yarn, at least.

The foolishness at issue is that of producers Joe Roth and Roger Birnbaum, who want to pass off the non-charismatic, lame Sheen and Sutherland as action heroes and cast de Mornay in a role once played by Lana Turner. Nevertheless, by using invigorating action sequences, colorful Austrian locations and an unhesitating pace, Roth, Birnbaum and director Stephen Herek concoct a splendidly engaging, lively action film.

Dumas’s plot, of course, makes up for a lot of flaws. A young Frenchman, O’Donnell, arrives in Paris, hoping to join the elite royal guard, the Musketeers, just as the unit is being disbanded by ambitious cleric Cardinal Richelieu, an overdrawn real-life personality played by Curry.

O’Donnell joins forces with three Musketeer veterans, Piatt, Sheen and Sutherland, to try to foil a coup planned by Curry, his minionette de Mornay and the sheriff of Nottingham surrogate, Michael Wincott.

The snarly Sheen and phlegmatic Sutherland are oddly counterheroic. The only thing more laughable than Sutherland’s getting tough, for instance, is Sheen’s getting tough. De Mornay, pouting full-time as usual, trots out her serious acting mode, which consists of widening her eyes during Big Moments, such as when she resists the advances of the lecherous Curry. Anwar, as wan an actress as there is, plays Queen Anne. Hugh O’Connor, who looks like a combination of Winona Ryder and Laurence Olivier in his Richard III makeup, plays the foppy King Louis.

The an lie tone of the proceedings makes it hard to get too worked up over the concluding sequences, but Dumas’s “One for all; all for one” schmaltz is impossible to resist. (PG)