"This isn't a great cause, but it will have to do," says Aramis (Luke Evans) right before the big fighting starts in this one-zillionth version (thanks, public domain) of The Three Musketeers. If there's a takeaway piece of dialogue from an irrelevant movie like this, it's that one, but mostly because it's too hard to quote diabolically arching eyebrows.
The diabolical-eyebrow-archingest cast members are, in no particular order, Milla Jovovich, Orlando Bloom and Christoph Waltz. They're the bad guys, of course, out to bring down the teenage king of France and ruin his loyal Musketeers (Ray Stevenson, Matthew MacFadyen and Evans) in the process. And these neutered PG-13 villains seem to be having a good time collecting their paychecks, realizing that this mega-dumb Pirates of the Caribbean-aping wank-fest is just another day at the office.
So. Let's say that you're no fan of stuff having any sort of point, that movies-as-cash-machines are just fine by you, that you don't need the thing you're observing to justify its existence. That means you're halfway down the path to watching all 110 minutes of digital emptiness and walking out feeling fine about how you spent your time. To review a film like this involves framing my experience in the same way.
To that end, here's what I liked:
1. I liked the trailer for Twilight: Breaking Down, or whatever it's called when that one vampire guy says, "The fetus is incompatible with your body!"
2. I liked that Milla Jovovich got all the cool action sequences and Matrix-y slo-mo air-ballet moves and the John Woo-inspired limbo slide down the booby-trapped hallway full of flying Phantasm deathballs. She is married to the director.
3. I liked it when Porthos (Ray Stevenson, The Punisher!) twirled his mustache to punctuate any scene in which he had to prove that he was a bigger badass than the other people standing around him. Guys with mustaches should always be twirling them to make their point.
4. I liked it when the birds pooped on James Corden (The History Boys) because he said they were going to do that and then they did. Comedy.
5. I liked how Freddie Fox, as the teen king, looked just like Sarah Polley if she had a mustache.
6. I liked how the theater I bought my ticket at (they didn't show this to the press beforehand) wasn't screening it in 3D, thus saving me that wallet-gouging extra charge.
7. I liked the clean, smooth, computer-generated blimp battles. I enjoyed imagining that somewhere a meeting was held to figure out how to make the film extra stupid and Pirates-ripoff-ish and somebody came up with the idea of attaching pirate ships to blimps and then that person got an executive producer credit.
8. I liked it when Logan Lerman wasn't on screen.
9. I liked thinking about how some dumb kid is going to use this movie to write a book report about the novel and fail when he discusses flying pirate balloon machines and people spinning through the air like ninjas.
10. I liked how it ended by presuming that there'll be a sequel.