Paul had already seen this dreadful-looking new Three Musketeers, and wanted to see it again. "Nothing you'd rather see?" I asked, figuring literally anything would be better.
"No. You'll like it. It's really good."
OK, fine, but I demanded a price: Before going to this thing, he'd first watch Richard Lester's absolutely peerless 1973 adaptation of Musketeers. I explained that it's one of my favorite movies, which is usually a good way to get Paul reasonably intrigued. (He trusts my opinions, except about James Bond.) I started the movie and...
...He loved it. Well, why wouldn't he? Between an absolutely perfect cast (Charlton Heston's splendidly villainous Cardinal Richelieu is like a miniature acting class in itself), George MacDonald Fraser's witty script and some truly sumptuous settings, Lester is given free reign to make this material his own, and the result is not only a first-rate adventure tale, but one of the greatest comedies ever made.
I don't know how Lester did it: Hackneyed bits of physical comedy become gaspingly funny purely through his staging and cutting. That sort of thing almost never works; usually when a director fusses over a gag, it becomes notably less amusing. (The sheer visual invention Steven Spielberg brought to 1941 is admirable, but it won't make you laugh.) But here Lester repeatedly stages a scene in a seemingly deadpan manner, then cuts to a reverse angle which reveals its absurdity, and damned if it isn't funny every single time. And he knows just how long to hold a shot, just when to cut, just when o move the camera. He's just really good is what I'm saying, and The Three Musketeers (like its equally vital sequel, The Four Musketeers) is a world-class work of cinema.
Which is a pretty good thing o introduce a twelve-year-old to, don't you think? We went to the new Three Musketeers the next day--and just an aside here, but boy do I wish contemporary moviemakers would stop ending their movies with setups for sequels nobody will ever want to see--and Paul still claims to like this one better. That's understandable--it's pitched to contemporary kids, with explosions, wirework and whatnot. (Also some of the phoniest looking CGI you'll ever see.) It's all about immediate sensation.
But as for which one he'll actually remember, well, I have a feeling I know.