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Film review: Musketeer, The

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As tempting as it is to make "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Musketeer" jokes, that's probably giving too much credit to "The Musketeer," the latest version of the much-filmed Alexandre Dumas story.

After all, this lackluster, swashbuckling adventure can't hold a candle to the aforementioned, Oscar-winning romantic fantasy, nor does it do any justice to the beloved and stirring source material.

Actually, it takes some sort of talent to reduce the material to something this pedestrian and routine, and filmmaker Peter Hyams possesses that talent. What's worse, his Hong Kong-style action scenes can't cover up the by-the-number storytelling and wooden acting.

The film has one of the least charismatic D'Artagnans in the form of Justin Chambers, who has the look for the part but little more.

Here, he's seeking revenge for the deaths of his parents, and to that end, he's received training from his father's trusty sidekick, Planchet (mumbly Jean-Pierre Castaldi).

So it's off to Paris to become a musketeer, though the king's guards have fallen on hard times. It turns out they've been framed for the killing of a Spanish envoy and are in a state of disarray.

As it turns out, that's part of a plan to discredit the king, which has been masterminded by the evil Cardinal Richelieu (Stephen Rea) and his bloodthirsty henchman Febre (Tim Roth).

So it's up to D'Artagnan to save the queen (Catherine Deneuve), rescue his lady love (Mena Suvari) and finally give Febre his just deserts — since he's the man who killed his parents.

While the action scenes could have saved the movie, Hyams seems incapable of keeping the cameras in the right place to capture them. And of the cast, the only person who seems to be having any fun is Roth, who's nicely over-the-top.

In fact, he's so much more interesting than Chambers' monotone D'Artagnan that you might be rooting for the bad guy to win for a change.

"The Musketeer" is rated PG-13 for swordfighting violence, gunfire and explosive mayhem, as well as some sexually suggestive talk. Running time: 105 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com