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R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 03/19/1998,

The Man in the Iron Mask

Writer and director Randall Wallace's remake of the 1939 classic, itself a remake of 1929's The Iron Mask, catches up to the Musketeers in the throes of midlife crisis. With France under the tyranny of bratty King Louis XIV (a bland Leonardo DiCaprio), the retired royal guards (Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, and Gérard Depardieu) mope about like downsized executives. Only d'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) remains plumed as captain of the Musketeers. But just as the quartet sigh that they'll never en garde again, a risky mission reunites them: they must unlock the identity of a prisoner (an even blander DiCaprio) trapped in an iron mask.

The result is all ruff and no tumble. Surprisingly, given that Wallace wrote Braveheart, the blade clashes bore, and Dumas's tale of undying allegiance dulls into puerile farce and ludicrous derring-do. Byrne, Irons, and Malkovich are hopelessly vapid, and comic-relief Depardieu nuzzles his schnoz into too many hiked-up bosoms. Even the double dose of Leo won't keep the Tiger Beat crowd happy; his stubbleless cheeks, of course, spend much of the film behind heavy headgear. At the Cheri, the Fresh Pond, and the Circle and in the suburbs.

-- Alicia Potter