A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Richard Lester's "The Four Musketeers" was filmed at the same time as his 1974 hit (which was, uh . . . "The Three Musketeers") and continues the same story with the same combination of impenetrable plotting and nonstop swashbuckling. I liked the first film better than the second, but in any event, half of this pair is enough. It's too much of the same material, spun out into a wearying series of sword fights and romances.
The plot this time has the original musketeers and their newest recruit, D'Artagnan, mixed up in intrigues involving Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu and the French Revolution. Any similarity to history (or, for that matter, to the original Dumas classic) is accidental, but that doesn't matter as long as we're having fun. The trouble is that a little of this material goes too far, because Lester never really establishes his characters as people. If we got to know them a little, even as shallow comic creations, we'd be more involved in their plottings and adventures. But Lester relishes stereotypes, moves events along at a manic pace, and tends to exhaust us.
We get particularly tired if we try to make complete sense of the plot. I saw the movie, I read the synopsis afterward and I've still got to take 20th Century Fox's word about what happens in the picture. The comings and goings, the confrontations and coincidences, come so quickly and seem to be so much on the same level of relative importance that after a while, we just get characters trying to keep each other straight.
Still, the movie does have a nice, slick surface as simple linear diversion, and it should play well on television, where the commercials will conceal its lack of continuity by providing more of their own. Lester filmed on location in Spain, using lots of extras, three cameras at a time and his customary nervous energy. The costumes are great, the actresses (especially Faye Dunaway and Geraldine Chaplin) have been made into exquisite china dolls and the action scenes pass the time if you don't strain too hard to remember what's being fought over.