Forget for one moment that the star is Leonardo DiCaprio, as King Louis of Brooklyn. Forget also that Alexandre Dumas pulled this story out of his butt based on a notation in prison records. If nothing else, we can all remember that while Leo may be a heart stealer in Titanic, he is no Jeremy Irons. Or Gabriel Byrne. Or Gerard Depardieu (in his most charismatic role since, well, I can’t remember). Or even the reptilian John Malkovich, who I think is a good actor but just creepy looking and too Chicago in his dialect no matter what. King Leo is not even as strong as Anne Parillaud (as Anne) but he is a fine match for Judith Godreche (Christine). It was a tad distracting that director Randall Wallace chose not to have anyone bother to even have so much as a formal stage English dialect – and so, Leonardo looked silly. The weave in his hair didn’t help matters.
If you don’t know, the older gentlemen are the 3 musketeers and D’Artagnan, and DiCaprio is King Louis and his twin brother Phillipe. Somehow, Phillipe was just…better. Maybe they actually got two actors. DiCaprio was amazing in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape but somehow was floating on his laurels in his scenes with all the heavyweights, notably Irons. Woof! But the Sun King was no more from France than the Coneheads.
A casting kudo – whoever found Peter Saarsgard to play Malkovich’s son is pure genius – the accent, the flat tone-on-tone coloring of his voice – at one point a letter from Saarsgard is read in his voice as voice-over and myself and my companion both wondered why Malkovich would have written that letter. Oops! The costumes and sets are fabulous, the whole thing looked great. It opened too early in the year to be remembered at Oscar time but I hope people recall how nice and dirty and real it all was – yay production designer!!
Bonus points for the masquerade ball and the mask bit. OK, sure, despite not having read the book, it was a tad predictable and easy, but not in a bad way. It’s not brilliant but it is definitely entertaining.
Overall I had a great time watching this movie – even when the story felt glossed over or maybe even lubricated to facilitate cramming a little morality lesson in, it was still enjoyable. Louis the Sun King was indeed young and foolish and randy and an egomaniac. His older Musketeers, brave, full of loyalty and honor and duty and fellowship, are a striking contrast in generational thinking, without many years difference between them. It had an interesting (and I am sure unintentional) analogy to Old and New Hollywood – where someone like Matthew McConaughey can become a star before his movie is even released, yet someone like Steve Buscemi can never play the game and rise above his means. Young Hollywood wants it all now and Old Hollywood wants the journey. Of course I don’t mean Tony Curtis and Charleton Heston Old Hollywood, I mean like Harrison Ford and Susan Sarandon – the marked difference by only a decade or two in attitudes and lasting power.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 3/13/98
Time in minutes 117
Director Randall Wallace, William Richert
Studio United Artists