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"THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK"
(1998) (Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeremy Irons) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Minor Moderate *Mild Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Mild None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate None Minor Minor *Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: France's royal guards, the swashbuckling Musketeers, now middle-aged men, plot to replace their young, but callously cruel king with his long imprisoned, but identical twin brother.
PLOT:
It's 1660's Paris and the monarchy is strong. The people of Paris, however, are starving and that and a mysterious prisoner encased in an iron mask in the Bastille may prove to be the throne's undoing. King Louis XIV (LEONARDO DiCAPRIO), though, a young but despicably callous leader, is more concerned with his bedroom conquests than with feeding his people. That leads to trouble when he sets his sights on Christine (JUDITH GODRÈCHE), a comely young lass who is soon to be engaged to Raoul (PETER SARSGAARD). He's a soldier for the king's army and is the son of Athos (JOHN MALKOVICH), one of the legendary Four Musketeers who served the king's father so loyally.

When Athos learns that Louis has sent Raoul off to the front where he is killed in a battle, the former Musketeer announces his plans for revenge. Although his former partner D'Artagnan (GABRIEL BYRNE), the current captain of the royal guards, is dismayed to hear this news, his other two partners, Aramis (JEREMY IRONS), now a priest, and Porthos (GÉRARD DEPARDIEU), who misses their glory days of yesteryear, join Athos. The three men then concoct a plan to secretly swap the king with the prisoner in the iron mask.

They believe that will work as the prisoner is Philippe (LEONARDO DiCAPRIO), the king's identical twin brother whom no one knows about and whom Queen Anne (ANNE PARILLAUD), the boys' mother, believes died at birth. In a risky maneuver, they train Philippe to behave exactly like the king and then set off to make the switch. As their plan unfolds, they must deal with unexpected complications as well as the fact that they're battling D'Artagnan, their former friend and partner.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
The legend of the swashbuckling Musketeers may have lost some of its allure over the years, but the kids (especially the girls) who flocked to "Titanic" will probably want to see this one for the same reason: Leonardo DiCaprio.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For sequences of violence and some sensuality/nudity.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • LEONARDO DiCAPRIO plays both an uncaring, cruel tyrant whose greatest pleasure comes from bedding the next young lass, and his unassuming, caring twin brother.
  • JEREMY IRONS plays a former Musketeer and current priest who decides he must overthrow the king to help the starving people.
  • JOHN MALKOVICH plays a former Musketeer and angry father who wishes to avenge his son's death, a tragedy he blames on the king's actions.
  • GÉRARD DEPARDIEU plays an aging Musketeer who still likes to frolic with the women but misses the thrill of battle.
  • GABRIEL BYRNE plays the only remaining Musketeer who is loyal to the king.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    After months of dominating the box office, snaring a record-tying amount of Oscar nominations and generally pervading our and nearly every other nation's culture, the mighty "Titanic" may finally have met the cinematic equivalent of an iceberg. No, it's not a sci-fi extravaganza, nor does it possess performers whom we've grown accustomed to appearing in big movies. We're talking about "The Man In The Iron Mask," and the thing it's got going for it, is a quarter of what made "Titanic" a hit. While some people went because it was a James Cameron movie, others went just to see the ship sink. Still others wanted to see Kate Winslet, and the rest wanted to see Leo.

    That's Leonardo DiCaprio to you and me, and this new twenty million dollar man is now such a star that he may knock his other movie from the top of the perch in a cinematic game of king of the hill. That's not bad for a twenty-three-year-old who's been compared to James Dean. You may not be surprised then that he's being used in dual roles, but you may ask what in the world this movie is about.

    Well, you've probably heard of the "Three Musketeers" and may have seen one of the various incarnations featuring those swashbuckling heroes, including Disney's recent 1993 take that featured Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O'Donnell. "The Man In The Iron Mask" is a younger sibling to those stories, and is based on the works of Alexandre Dumas.

    This version isn't new to the silver screen, as adaptions date all the way back to 1929 and continue through the following decades -- including one directed by James Whale (who helmed the first two "Frankenstein" movies) -- until a loosely based version, "The Fifth Musketeer" (with Lloyd Bridges, Ursula Andress, Olivia de Havilland, Rex Harrison and others) arrived in 1979.

    As a youngster in the early 1970's, I fondly remember watching both 1974's "The Three Musketeers" and its sequel that came a year later, "The Four Musketeers." Featuring an all-star cast (Richard Chamberlain, Faye Dunaway, Charlton Heston and Raquel Welch among others) and directed by Richard Lester ("A Hard Day's Night," "Superman II"), the film was a thrilling escape for me as I delighted in watching Michael York gallivanting about as the adventurous D'Artagnan. I haven't seen the films in a long time and only have superficial memories of them, and thus was curious about how I'd feel about a new version.

    Since my memories of those films have faded with time -- and were initially seen through the eyes of a preteen before the summer blockbuster onslaught that began with "Jaws" and "Star Wars" -- I can't say as to whether they were good films, or just "feel good" films that were silly but highly entertaining. This latest version falls into the second category. Those looking for high art had better turn away at the door, for this film nears being labeled as "Grumpy Old Musketeers." Well, that's actually taking it a step too far -- for Lemmon and Matthau are nowhere to be seen, and these characters are only in their middle, and not advanced ages. Yet, that's from where some of the film's humor originates in that these guys aren't youngsters anymore.

    The focus of moviegoers, though, will be on the one cast member who is still a "pup." The teenage girls who are so enamored with Leo will be delighted to know that here they get a double dose of DiCaprio, with two flavors from which to pick. The Oscar nominated performer (not for "Titanic," but a best supporting nod for 1993's "What's Eating Gilbert Grape") plays both the arrogant, spoiled king and his identical twin brother who, of course, is an unassuming good guy.

    While at first it seems that DiCaprio's playing the king all wrong, one remembers that he's playing Louis XIV as a young, conceited tyrant. Even so, seeing him sporting long blond locks and dressed in regal attire sometimes just doesn't seem quite right. Although this role will be long forgotten while his part in "Titanic" will live on forever (or at least for a long time), he does an okay job in both parts.

    Then there are the middle-aged musketeers themselves, and the men who inhabit the roles are a talented bunch, but their performances are a mixed bag. Forty-nine-year-old Jeremy Irons, an Oscar winner for 1990's "Reversal of Fortune," has such a regal, dignified and definitely distinctive voice (remember Scar from "The Lion King"), that he easily fits into not only his role, but this period piece quite effortlessly.

    Two time Oscar nominee John Malkovich (for "Places in the Heart" and "In the Line of Fire") is slightly younger than Irons and although he looks the part, his distinctive style of dialogue delivery -- something akin to an irritated cynic -- doesn't work here. I've thoroughly enjoyed his performances in other films, and while he has played "period" pieces before -- such as "Dangerous Liaisons" -- he just doesn't fit the mold of a Musketeer.

    Then there's Gérard Depardieu, another near fifty-year-old Oscar nominee (for "Cyrano de Bergerac"), and the only Frenchman in the bunch (considering the film is set in France). Used primarily for comic relief (fart jokes and views of his bare butt -- not used in the same scene), Depardieu sounds right and is somewhat believable -- he's hit middle age, his gut has gotten bigger, and he hates all of it. That leaves forty-seven-year-old Gabriel Byrne as D'Artagnan. While he's okay in the role, he's always comes across as a "flat" performer to me. One never really gets into his character, and he's certainly not what I would have expected that Michael York's swashbuckler would have turned in to.

    None of these performances will be ones for which the cast members are remembered. In fact, it nearly feels as if these talented actors found their way into a back lot costume shop and decided to don the outfits and do some role playing as musketeers. It's obvious that they realize that no one's going to take any of this seriously, and if you can get in on this session of make believe, you may just enjoy the ride.

    For instance, there's a scene where Aramis tries to pass as an extremely obese man, when in reality he's smuggling a body under his robe. It's quite obvious that a) he's not really that fat and b) there's no way he could carry that heavy of a body under his robe without some massive struggling. Still, just as the guards buy into the notion, all director Randall Wallace asks (he's the guy who won the best screenplay Oscar for "Braveheart") is that you play along with the ruse.

    It's almost like returning to childhood when you always played make believe with your best friends. Whether it was cops and robbers or perhaps even the three -- or four -- musketeers, you momentarily believed that you and your friends were those characters. Just as easily as you may have shouted, "All for one, and one for all," these actors easily fall into that role playing.

    That pretty much sums up this film. If you're in the mood for a non-tasking, occasionally entertaining time at the movies, then this may be the picture for you. If you're looking for a semblance of a well-made film or one with great performances, then this probably isn't the one. Instantly forgettable, this is the equivalent of cinematically flavored jelly beans. There are lots of flavors to enjoy, but you'll have already forgotten the taste before you leave the theater. We give "The Man In The Iron Mask" a 6 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Violence and sexuality will probably concern parents the most with this film. While there is a large amount of violence, much of it plays out like the swashbuckling movies of yesteryear and is mostly bloodless (although people are knifed, stabbed and sliced along the way). Some sexual encounters occur just off camera, but there are sexual sounds as well as some non-related nudity (a man's bare butt).

    There's only a tiny bit of profanity, but it does include 1 use of the "s" word. Some parents may also be concerned about role models. The king (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is an arrogant young man who cares more about bedding the ladies then feeding his people, but his twin brother (also played by DiCaprio) is the polar opposite and is considered one of the heroes. Since many kids will probably want to see this film (due to DiCaprio's presence), you may want to look through the material to see if it's appropriate for them or for anyone else in your home.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Athos pours D'Artagnan some wine.
  • The king and Christine drink wine.
  • Porthos thinks he's useless and claims he'll hang himself "once I'm sober."
  • Aramis drinks wine and repeatedly asks for more (but doesn't get any).
  • Porthos makes a comment about them needing to "eat, drink, and make love tonight."
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Although neither bloody nor gory, we do hear Porthos fart, and later some bird poop lands on his hat.
  • We see just a little bit of blood on a man's hand as well as on a sword after a man's been stabbed.
  • The musketeers meet in a tomb area and we see several musty skeletons.
  • We see just a tiny bit of blood as a person's throat is slit, and a few other victims have just little bits of blood on them.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • King Louis has both as he's a conceited, non-caring leader who lets his subjects starve when not feeding them rotten food. He's also a "love 'em and leave 'em" type of tyrant, who beds women and then moves on to his next conquest.
  • The king actively pursues Christine although she plans on marrying Raoul, who Louis then sends to the battle front in a war where he's killed. He then continues to pursue her even on the day she learns of Raoul's death.
  • Those responsible for removing and later imprisoning Philippe have both.
  • After Christine comments that they'll both burn in hell (for having sex and her betraying her love), Louis says, "No my love. You will burn in hell. But I will not. For I am king. Ordained by God."
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • The initial, brief glimpses of the man in the iron mask (a literal description) might be unsettling to very young viewers, as might the scene where they finally take the mask off (and he looks somewhat like a mangy werewolf with long matted, and scraggly hair).
  • Some of the action scenes listed under "Violence" may be tense to the youngest of viewers, but probably few others.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Swords/Knives/Rifles/Muskets: Used to injure, wound, or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Canons: Fired during a battle scene.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Piss" and "Fart."
  • Some kids may want to imitate the sword fighting that occurs during the film.
  • Porthos, comically despondent that his better days are behind him, puts a noose around his neck and tries to hang himself (but fails as the beam the rope's around breaks). Later, however, another person is successful at hanging themselves.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A mild amount of suspenseful music -- mixed with some dramatically oriented action music -- occurs during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 1 "s" word, 2 slang terms for breasts (the "t" word), and 1 use of "My God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see some rather buxom women whose low cut dresses reveal quite a bit of cleavage.
  • Porthos says, "He's hung like a donkey" (about Aramis) to which a woman replies, "So are you."
  • After Porthos makes a comment about women's breasts, Aramis says, "Sometimes there are more important things in life than t*ts."
  • Christine's outfit shows some cleavage.
  • We hear brief sexual and then climaxing sounds as the camera finally moves around to show the king and a woman in bed right after having sex (no nudity).
  • D'Artagnan talks to the king about pursuing Christine and Louis admits that he's "loved" many women. D'Artagnan then mentions women giving the king the "most intimate embrace."
  • We see Louis and Christine in bed after they've had sex and see just part of the side of her bare breast (her arm covers the rest).
  • Porthos stares at a buxom woman's cleavage.
  • We hear some brief sexual sounds and heavy breathing coming from under a mound of hay. The hay then falls away and we see Porthos getting off a woman who tells him that it's all right, "It's just taking you time to get started." As he gets up, we then see that two more women were under the hay with him (but there's no nudity).
  • We see Porthos' bare butt several times as he walks toward a barn to hang himself (after the above, and he's not successful).
  • Porthos makes a comment about them needing to "eat, drink, and make love tonight."
  • Louis lies on top of Christine, kissing her, but both are clothed and nothing else happens.
  • SMOKING
  • None.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Athos learns that his son has died, as does Christine about her boyfriend.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The real-life history behind this story (ie. The real King Louis XIV, etc...).
  • VIOLENCE
  • While several people are killed, little of the violence is bloody and is more of a throwback to swashbuckling movies from decades ago, then typical violence seen today. That said, the following occurs:
  • Parisians riot in the streets and throw food at a man who rides by on horseback.
  • After Porthos repeatedly taps Aramis, the latter smacks the first and the two then get into a brief shoving match.
  • The king orders Aramis to find the leader of the Jesuits and then kill him.
  • A man rushes up and tries to kill the king, but D'Artagnan throws his sword that impales the man. The king then finishes off the would-be assassin with a dagger.
  • Rioters grab some musketeers and begin hitting them on the ground (nothing too bad) and fire several shots at the guards.
  • We see Raoul at the battle front and as he rushes toward a fortress, an explosion (from a canon shot) explodes nearby and kills him.
  • Athos punches D'Artagnan and wounds several other men before he's tackled to the ground.
  • Aramis and two guards burn a dead body believed to be carrying the plague (we only see the flames).
  • Porthos, comically despondent that his better days are behind him, puts a noose around his neck and tries to hang himself (but fails as the beam the rope's around breaks).
  • Porthos fights off two men (one armed with a knife, the other a gun) and knocks them about.
  • Aramis punches the king.
  • Porthos throws a man into the water and another man is slammed into a wall. The musketeers then hit the king on the head, knocking him out.
  • A sword fight breaks out where several people are sliced or impaled, but there is no blood.
  • Athos holds a knife to the king's throat during a standoff with the guards, while D'Artagnan holds his foil on Philippe's throat.
  • The musketeers hit people with their oars as they make their escape.
  • Louis pushes his mother backwards and then punches Philippe.
  • A person has hanged themselves (we see the swinging body outside the window).
  • The musketeers knock out a guard, and later other guards fire their muskets at them.
  • The musketeers fire their muskets, injuring some of the guards, and then fight the others with their swords (with more being stabbed and sliced, but the only bloody one is when a person's throat is slit -- seen from a distance).
  • The guards fire a round of shots at the Musketeers, injuring all of them. When another man tries to attack with a knife, one of the Musketeers steps in the way and is mortally wounded (ie. He dies).
  • One of the musketeers punches another man.



  • Reviewed February 23, 1998

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