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1:40 AM Tue, Dec. 11th

'Musketeer' long on action, short on story

Along the way, D'Artagnan picks ridiculous fights with his usual impudence and immaturity, going so far as to compel two drunken buffoons to "apologize to my horses."

But, as with all the fights in this movie, they are fun to watch and immensely well-done, requiring the actors and/or stuntmen to be nothing less than acrobats, as well as convincing swordsmen.

Some of the frays are ordinary Western-style bar fights (now medieval inn brawls) where tables are knocked over and wine barrels pierced, but some are quite extraordinarily clever.

The "shutters" fight, as I call it, was nothing less than a shell and pea game; the aerial "tower" battle, fought while hanging by ropes on the side of a tower was mesmerizing in the "Crouching Tiger" style (the fight choreographer was Xin Xin Xiong); and the whole movie was worth watching just to see the "ladder" fight in the wine warehouse.

Forget the unimaginative and at times downright trite and boring dialogue, but keep an eye on the sword fights ... they're better than any talk.

On his way to find Febre, D'Artagnan meets his fair lady while renting a room.

Francesca (Mena Suvari), also a poor orphan like himself, is beautiful (blue eyes as big as dinner plates), but her character is completely unappealing. She is singularly cold and curt with a tart tongue at first, only later warming up, which seems to parrot romance novel women who eventually melt into impassioned lovers.

Inspired by her beauty, D'Artagnan does not, of course, notice her lack of warmth, nor question her uninspiring personality.

The plot of "The Musketeer" is basic, not complicated nor deep, but in some ways refreshingly predictable in a past era movie style: The hero gets the girl, re-bands the disheartened Musketeers, saves the queen (Catherine Deneuve, who is marvelous to watch), gets the villain – you know the story. But it's OK, because it is fun to watch and you know it won't end sadly.

At one point, the action even managed to give me a lump in the throat. Heroism and loyalty combined with dramatic background music … how can one resist?

Before you expect too much from "The Musketeer", contemplate how to improve on a movie that is set 300 years ago, except through enhanced effects and better techniques. Unless, of course, by making a mockery of it like "The Last Knight" did, by adding punk hairstyles, hard rock music and modern jargon.

All in all, "The Musketeer" is just what it's supposed to be – entertaining.

Rated PG-13, for intense action violence and some sexual content.