Thomas & Friends: The Greatest Stories (2 Discs) product details page

Thomas & Friends: The Greatest Stories (2 Discs)

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It might have seemed unlikely at the time, but in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, Richard Lester found one of the best outlets for his unique sensibility. All the swashbuckling presented endless opportunities to indulge his love of slapstick set pieces, but, just as importantly, the schemes and double crosses of the plot opened the door for an abundance of jaded political commentary. The musketeers find themselves fighting against the malevolent selfishness of Charlton Heston to a far greater degree than they fight for the more or less benign selfishness of Geraldine Chaplin, presented throughout as vain, childish, and generally unworthy of the loyalty shown her. What matters far more is the camaraderie of the musketeers themselves, the bond between a handful of friends far more worthwhile than any ideology, a theme emphasized even more heavily in the sequel. Only poorly implemented post-sync dialogue undermines the project, occasionally negating the performances of a perfectly cast ensemble. Keith Phipps, All Movie Guide

At moments the dark edges of Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers threaten to overwhelm its sequel. Here first seen working to quell a Huguenot rebellion, the musketeers recognize the absurdity of the conflict, but driven by duty and the love of action more than principle, they proceed to take part in the suppression anyway. Eventually the appearance of recognizable villains -- Heston, Dunaway and Lee -- puts the ambiguity to rest and allows Lester to bring on the slapstick -- albeit slapstick tempered with a bit more tragic potential than before. For all the lighthearted action, Lester has a keen sense of how ugly violence can be, a strand of his work that runs from How I Won the War through this film and on to the underrated elegiac swashbuckler Robin and Marian. It's a theme confined mostly to the background here, but its presence remains strong enough to set The Four Musketeers apart from its more lighthearted predecessor. Having fostered love for his merry soldiers, Lester now feels a need, perhaps a little too late, to make his audience confront the shadier aspects of their exploits. Keith Phipps, All Movie Guide