ThreeMusketeerscoverGrade: C
Entire family: Yes . . . but?
2004, 68 min., Color
Rated G
Aspect Ratio:  1.78:1
Featured audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD Copy
Bonus features: C-

The Three Musketeers is that rare Disney animated feature that’s tough to recommend, even for youngsters in the family.

Made in 2004 as a direct-to-video offering, the Mickey, Donald and Goofy version of Alexandre Dumas’ timeless novel seems mechanical and uninspired, almost to the point of being tedious to watch. And it’s not just one thing. Many facets of the filmmaking process are disappointing.

There’s much more detail and heart in another Disney adaptation of classic literature, Mickey’s Christmas Carol. That 1983 animated film felt like a performance of Dickens’ story in which Mickey and the gang were cast as characters, and their “acting” was good enough to pull us into the story. Although that film was only 26 minutes long, it was so well done that every family and Disneyphile wanted to add it to their collections.

The Three Musketeers is 68 minutes long, and it feels longer. My family wasn’t drawn into the story at all, because it seemed more like those Warner Bros. and Disney cartoon shorts in which the characters are still the characters, but transposed to different settings. The scenes felt bloated to take up space, the animation seemed pedestrian, and the character locomotion was unimaginative. In short, there was nothing that brought a laugh or a smile of delight, as usually happens when we watch a Disney animated feature.  

Director Donovan Cook (Return to Never Land) presides over a group of artists and animators who were saddled with a mediocre script that includes few clever lines, and fewer clever situations. The music—classical compositions given new lyrics—is more loud and blustery than it is beautiful to listen to or catchy enough to sing, and the minor characters aren’t endearing.

Then again, the film gets off to a shaky start with a skit involving a mean and pompous narrator who’s supposed to be on camera, but falls through the stage, leaving a turtle with a faux French accent to handle the chore—and the turtle isn’t exactly classic Disney. This “troubadour” also feels like padding.

ThreeMusketeersscreenThe story itself is simple. Mickey, Donald and Goofy are the equivalent of 17th-century palace janitors who aspire to be musketeers—that is, elite soldiers of the king. Minnie is the princess, and Daisy her attendant. Peg-Leg Pete is the Captain of the Guard who has enlisted henchmen (with accents that shuttle back and forth between England and France) to kidnap the princess. When a first attempt is bungled, he decides to assign guards to protect her that would be so incompetent as to not get in the way of a kidnapping. Naturally, Pete promotes the three “janitors” and tasks them with protecting her highness.

There’s more, but if your children are like mine, they’ll wander off one by one in search of something more interesting to do. These days, even children want more than chases and fights and generic songs. Humor would have been helpful, and some measure of cleverness, whether in the sight gags or dialogue, would have pulled this short feature out of the mire. Some of the characters just seem “miscast” in this period costumer—like poor Clarabelle, who’s relegated to being Pete’s henchwoman.

One thing the film has going for it, though, is the old-school 2-D animation, rendered at a time when most animated features were going CGI. There’s some CGI work here, but not much, and that’s kind of refreshing. Still, when The Three Musketeers was first released it was billed as the first full-length feature for Mickey Mouse, and that’s kind of depressing. I think Mickey deserved better.