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The Three Musketeers

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: G

Running Time: 68 minutes

Starring the voices of: Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, Bill Farmer, Jim Cummings, Russi Taylor, Tress Macneille, April Winchell, Jeff Bennett, Mauice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen

Screenplay by: Evan Spilotopoulous and David Mickey Evans
Based on the novel by: Alexander Dumas

Directed by: Donovan Cook

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary, "Three Is A Magic Number" Music Video, Disney Song Selection, Games, Get The Scoop, Cast Commentary, Sneak Peeks. DVD-ROM: Register Your DVD

Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (12 Scenes)

Released: August 17th, 2004

 

 

Based on the classic book by Alexander Dumas, Disney's new (and 2-D animated!) "The Three Musketeers" puts its own infused spin on the beloved tale (though whether it will erase memories of their live action version with Chris O'Donnell and Tim Curry remains to be seen). This time around, Mickey and his pals Donald and Goofy (together for the first time in a feature-length project) have dreams of being Musketeers after being inspired when Musketeers saved their lives when they were children. All grown-up though, the three find themselves working as maintenence people for the evil Peg-Leg Pete and their childhood dream nearly dead.

Pete, being the villain and all, has a plan (which seems to stem from his rotten mother): he will kidnap the overly-romantic Princess Minnie (who he works for) and declare himself the new king of France. To set his plan in motion though, he calls on the naive dreamers and the trio become Musketeers. Their mission is to protect Princess Minnie, but Pete believes the three friends are disadvantaged - Donald's too afraid, Goofy is too dumb and Mickey is too small - which will make the kidnapping and throne-overtaking a cinch. Still, Pete doesn't count on the power of true friendship and loyalty, as well as the benefits of teamwork. Will France be saved by the unlikely threesome? Besides, it's all for one and one for all... right?

"The Three Musketeers" is a welcome light and breezy romp - and it's one of those movies that you just have to go with even if some portions of it are underplayed (the romantic subplots can easily be bought into and are fine, but lack any real substance or resonance - but I don't know if I should be complaining if the film's intention is for all-around happy endings). This movie wastes no time whatsoever - just about every moment in the movie serves a point and advances the action. The result is pretty enjoyable and a story that never bores - young Disney fans are sure to really get into it, while older folk watching the movie won't mind it the least bit.

But even though the quick pace has its advantages, the movie runs just about an hour (exclusing the several minutes worth of credits). Disney seems to love making their direct-to-video entries on the short side, and while I don't know if it was because of finanicial constaints or other reasons, this movie could have definitely used some padding out. Love stories aside, I'm sure there could have been more to the friendship and origins of Mickey, Donald and Goofy and may be more on Pete's motives. When the three originally become Musketeers, it all seems a bit underdone and it certainly would have been nice if the film's prologue was animated. That could have been really good, instead of just being told in comic book panels. The film also lacks a proper bookend - it starts off as if it's a tale being told on television a la "Masterpiece Theater" or a show like that, which is a decent concept in itself ripe of possibilities, but the film just abandons it completely. This makes it all seem worthless and pointless other than for a few jokes - surely other ideas could have been used (one is actually featured as part of the deleted scenes on the DVD). Still, I have no idea money played a part in all of this or not - though it very well could have.

Still, it's hard to fault such a production that does a lot right. Whether you know the actual Dumas story or not, it should be obvious to anyone in how the movie ends (and might I add, the last scene - even a particular music cue - reminded me of the finale to the original "Star Wars"). A lot of the complexity and intrigue of the actual "The Three Musketeers" may be gone, but so what? A variety of Disney characters are presented in fine form here and just as you'd expect, putting a nice twist on an old tale. The plot is well developed with a nice balance and emphasis on the movie's morals, action, romance and characters. The humor isn't bad too - a lot of it is standard slapstick, but there are some pretty clever and irreverant lines and a bunch of blink-or-you'll-miss-them references to all parts of The Magic Kingdom.

As far as the movie's animation, it's pretty impressive despite being done good old Disney Television Animation (which has a new name now). They've really improved and have become more detailed in the past few years, as the animation is sharper. No, it doesn't reach the heights of the theatrical movies Disney has done or even the mighty visuals of The Lion King 1 1/2, but it looks damn good. The voice acting - done by Disney's regular slate - give impeccable and enthusiastic readings which really shine through (and for you purists, some of these voice actors sound pretty close to the original people). And when it comes to the music, the score is very nice but the songs are really disappointing. The actual idea of the songs isn't bad (classical musical pieces and some opera tunes with lyrics to reflect the characters and story), but the execution is poor. The songs are really short and the lyrics are a bit too cheesy, simple and even predictable for my tastes. Sad to say, there isn't anything clever about them.

On a final note, I believe director Donovan Cook (who has been very involved in other animated Disney projects) was pushing for a theatrical release of the movie - which may have been fair given that Disney has put other home video projects in the theatrical pipeline to varying degrees of success ("Jungle Book 2," anyone?). Disney knows how to milk their cows, and their classic characters would appeal to more than just children. While I'm not sure if this movie would have been a smash success at the box office, given its length, it'd seem more profitable just to release this on home video. And even though Disney won't be releasing anymore 2-D features in the theater anymore (all CGI now, which is a shame) - it's somewhat encouraging they haven't killed off 2-D completely. With that said, "The Three Musketeers" may not be a truly impressive or groundbreaking Disney release, but it's a lot of fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. If you're a Disney fan - young or old - then do check this movie out. You probably won't be disappointed.

 

Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, "The Three Musketeers" looks outstanding. Other than some noise on the transfer (which isn't too bad, but is there and can easily be noticed) everything else is perfect. The animation looks incredibly sharp, as the colors are incredibly vivid and very well saturated. Black levels are perfect, detail is fabulous and there is no edge enhancement to boot. The source print is pristine, and there are no major problems whatsoever. This makes for great eye candy no matter what type of screen you're viewing it on, so you technical-oriented fans of the movie will be more than pleased. A job well done!

 

Boasting Dolby Digital 5.1 (in English, French and Spanish) and DTS 5.1 (English only) tracks, "The Three Musketeers" sounds excellent and even rivals sound mixes of recent theatrical films hitting DVD (Disney doesn't seem to skimp on their more noted DVD productions, even if it's only a high-profile direct-to-DVD release). Dialogue is firm, centered and clearly place and the music (the score and the songs) fill up the speakers well, giving the movie an even more engaging ambience. Most noteable though are the surround sounds, which pack strong punches all around. The opening on the television set (with staff members whispering from the rears), the swashbuckling, the mess Mickey and friends make in the beginning of the movie, the carriage chase and the big finale at the Opera house. Surrounds are in full force here, and are very discrete.

In comparing the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks though, the advantage goes to the DTS - but it was a close. Each track is more than good, but I found the DTS to be a bit fuller and richer overall for a more solid listening experience. Still, each track features high fidelity, strong imagning and exceptional dynamic range making the movie a great listening experience. Also included are English closed captions, plus subtitles in English.

 

It may be a direct-to-video release, but Disney has packed in a decent share of extras on the DVD. First off, this is the first Disney DVD to feature "FastPlay" - personally, I think it's a pointless feature but it's there. I guess if you're really lazy or don't care what extras you watch directly after the movie, then this is for you. FastPlay is supposed to save time and make things convenient (is it really that hard to click a remote?) - it plays the movie (but beforehand, in typical Disney fashion, it'll show you some previews!), and then after it'll play some of the bonus features on the disc. Maybe it's good for pedatricians offices, apathetic kids who can't touch their parents DVD players or something else... and whether we'll see this on future DVDs is up to us. There's an inset inside the keep case inviting anyone with the DVD to fill out a survey about their experiences with FastPlay, so if you love it or hate it - go nuts. To me, it's a gimmick.

Now onto the features. First up are four Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Vice President of DisneyToon Studios Brian Snedeker. Snedicker speaks quite well of the movie, his involvement and while these scenes had to go - basically for pacing reasons. He is also rather chatty and engaging. The scenes themselves though don't really add up to much and last four minutes in total. One is a storyreel of an alternate opening, two are rough pencil animations and one is actually complete (it's a mere, amusing line spoken by the Trubadour turtle - I still don't see how Snedicker thinks that slowed the film down). Given that the movie is only an hour, I don't think another two minutes would have really killed it. The scees are in non-anamorphic widescreen.

Under the "Music & More" section there's the Three Is A Magic Number Music Video (in non-anamorphic widescreen, but wait, the video doesn't list who the singers are! I'm sure they're some Disney Channel regulars or something) and a Disney Song Selection in case you want to jump right into one of the songs. In "Games and Activities" there are two set-top Games to play - "Opera-Toon-Ity" which has you make your own limited opera and "The Many Hats Of Mickey" which has you click on a variety of hats Mickey has worn in cartoons and clips from them. I'm not sure if I'd call these games, but they are a little fun.

In the "Backstage Disney" section there's a featurette that runs nearly ten minutes entitled Get The Scoop. This is a typical making-of meant to promote the movie, but it does have some enjoyable nuggets that give us insight into the production (such as actual swordfighting footage used as a reference for the animators). Complete with the filmmakers hard at work and clips from the movie (plus footage from Disney gone by), we "get the scoop" from producer Margot Pipkin, director Donovan Cook, studio exec Brian Snedeker, story artist Kirk Hanson, art director Bob Kline, editor Bret Marnell, senior VP of music Matt Walker and lyricist Chris Otsuki. All these people talk about the origins and development of the movie as well as their own jobs a bit (and Cook shows off his Disney knowledge too). Worth a look, but where were the voice talents in all this?

A Cast Commentary is included as the characters in the movie - Mickey, Goofy, Donald and Pete - comment on a five minute scene. Making as if they actually shot the scene, it's cute with all the usual industry talk and joking you'd expect. Nobody can understand Donald, Goofy is too nice, Mickey is pretty serious and Pete comes across as disliking everyone. Pretty good and worth five minutes of your time whether you're a kid or an adult.

Rounding things off are the usual truckload of Disney Sneak Peeks and you DVD-ROM users can register your disc.

 

One of the better and more original direct-to-video outings that I can remember from the Mouse House, "The Three Musketeers" puts an enjoyable Disney take on a classic story (the kids will definitely love it). As a DVD package, it's pretty strong. The transfer is almost perfect, the Dolby Digital and DTS mixes are great and there are bonus features for everybody. En guarde, DVD fans!