Cardinal Richelieu (Tim Curry) believes that he was the whole of France under his command, no matter what the young King (Hugh O'Conor) thinks, but not everyone will be bowing down to him, as he soon discovers, much to his displeasure. One man who will be standing up to the Cardinal is young D'Artagnan (Chris O'Donnell), who wishes to be a Musketeer like his late father before him, but first he has a personal matter to sort out before he heads for Paris. A small misunderstanding between him and Girard (Paul McGann), who believes him to have slighted his sister...
And we know what we mean by "slighted", don't we? Yes, there was a lot of so-called "wenching" going on in this slick, fashionable for its time version of the celebrated Alexandre Dumas book, although the complaints from purists at the time was that this was more dumbass than Dumas, and it's true that anything that might have proved to be troubling for the characters tended to be dismissed with the camaraderie on display. It didn't help that O'Donnell was required to play his role as one of the screen's most obnoxious D'Artagnans, full of himself and hard to like for too much of the running time.
If you could get past missteps such as that, then with this cast there was surely a compensation, after all, who doesn't like to see Tim Curry as the baddie? In David Loughery's script there was much done to modernise the dialogue of the classic text, not quite as badly as the Simpsons spoof would have had it (this doesn't end with a rap, but with Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart and Sting collaborating on a drippy ballad - three of them, see?), yet still jarring in comparison to the earlier versions. The Richard Lester movies of the seventies remained the benchmark, but this tale was venerable enough to provide material for whatever decade wished to adapt it, and at the time much of the audience would have had Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds fresh in their minds.
Certainly there were more serious scenes here, but overall the tone was "Let's romp!" rather than let's be faithful to the source, although there was an element of respect here if you looked hard enough. Playing our Musketeers were three stars who at this stage looked to be on the way out, before television came along and raised their profile once more; Charlie Sheen was Aramis, more pretentious than romantic, Kiefer Sutherland was brooding miseryguts Athos, and Oliver Platt was more of a comic relief Porthos, but at least they didn't come across as if they'd met a couple of minutes before shooting began. In fact, there was a star in just about every important role, which helped to smooth over the hard to ignore cracks in credibility.
Also showing up on the villains' side were Michael Wincott as Rochefort, who gets the predictable reference to cheese inflicted on him (to do with his name rather than Wincott's acting), and Rebecca De Mornay as Milady, a far less devious persona than in previous incarnations, getting her shot at redemption after Richelieu recruits her to bring about a war between France and England (although she does try to bump off D'Artagnan, maybe not such a bad thing this time around). Gabriel Anwar was the Queen, but not bringing much personality, and what was this? An actual French accent? That would be Julie Delpy as Constance, enjoying a different fate than the traditional one, as if nobody wanted this Three Musketeers to be too much of a downer. Or any less of a cartoon, as this could easily have provided the basis for a Saturday morning effort, and if you were unimpressed by the cast, who at least gave it the required effort, then this was pretty thin stuff. Music by Michael Kamen.