They’re still the Three Musketeers, but “All for one and one for all” has turned into “All for one and — what was that rotten thing you said about me, you bastard?”
In “The Man in the Iron Mask,” the Musketeers have aged and they’re feuding (with all of the passing gas, the back-and-forth slapping and the birds disgracing themselves on them, they’re closer to the Three Stooges).
But they’re reunited when the behavior of their vicious king, Louis XIV, starts to get out of hand.
They scheme to replace the king with a convenient identical twin, whom nobody knows about because he’s been locked up for years. The brothers are played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and two Leos should suit 11-year-old girls just fine.
DiCaprio notwithstanding, the movie is really about the Musketeers, and there are three ways a movie could play them: spoofy, straight (going for all the swashbuckling romance of it) or contemporized, exploring the psychology of the characters.
“The Man in The Iron Mask” goes shakily down the middle. The Musketeers are bold and larger-than-life: Gabriel Byrne as D’Artagnan, the thoughtful one; Gerard Depardieu as Porthos, the horny one; and Jeremy Irons as Aramis, the one who will have a cologne named after him (there’s also semi-retired Athos, played by John Malkovich).
Meanwhile, DiCaprio broods as the bad king and kvetches as the good one, whose tremulous vulnerability is a bit of a drag. Unfortunately, neither of DiCaprio’s kings has much to do with 1662 — imagine James Dean wandering into an Erroll Flynn pirate movie, and you’ve got the idea. Since everyone in the international cast uses his own accent, it’s also somewhat disconcerting to have a Louis XIV who sounds like he grew up in Ohio.
Writer/director Randall Wallace hasn’t set the right tone — it’s not florid or stylized enough — but his witty script makes the large cast of characters distinct and it moves so quickly that it’s OK when the “The Man in the Iron Mask” doesn’t kick into gear until the king is replaced, 90 minutes into the movie.
Wallace, who wrote “Braveheart,” also has perfectly cast the Musketeers. They get only one swordfighting scene, and it’s at the end, but Byrne, Irons, Depardieu and Malkovich have lip-smacking fun throughout the movie. Their lines were written to be overacted, and each of them does it beautifully.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK” Locations: Newport, Spokane Valley Mall, Showboat Credits: Directed by Randall Wallace, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Gerard Depardieu, Gabriel Byrne, Anne Parillaud Running time: 2:12 Rating: PG-13