Ultimate Disney Tournament: The Three Musketeers vs. The Shaggy Dog

Hiya folks. Welcome back to Dyl’s Ultimate Disney Tournament. We are on our eighth match-up of the bracket. Today we’ve got #96 The Three Musketeers facing off against #161 The Shaggy Dog. And… well, this one was extremely close for reasons I’ll get into later. I know I say that a lot, but I really had to hunker down and think about who was going to end up winning this one. Without further ado, let’s get to the movies.

#96 – The Three Musketeers (1993)

Director: Stephen Herek

Writer: David Loughery

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Platt, Tim Curry, and Rebecca De Mornay

Plot: After the musketeers are disbanded, a small group of them still tries to foil a plot against their king. 

Review: I wanted to like The Three Musketeers. I really did. I like all of the actors. All of the still images, posters, and clips I’d seen looked alright. And, it was based on a classic piece of literature and made in the good old fashioned Hollywood style. What was there not to like? Well, as it turns out there’s a lot. 

Let’s start off with the positives. The highest compliment I can give The Three Musketeers is that it looks fantastic. While it obviously wasn’t actually Paris, you can tell they took the time to actually scope out beautiful European locations. I was constantly marveling at the beautiful scenery. And I appreciated that all of the internal castle shots were filmed in an actual castle. I’m glad they didn’t use green screens or sound stages. This made the movie feel more real.  I’ve also got to give major props to the costume designer. Each and every costume was spot on. They looked like they belonged in the 1600s. From the feathery hats to the priest robes, I loved the outfits in this movie. It’s a shame that the movie wasn’t that good, because the set and costume designers could’ve been Oscar contenders. They definitely make this B-movie seem more important than it is.

Now, as I said, I’m a fan of almost all of the actors involved in The Three Musketeers. They’ve all turned in a performance or two that I enjoyed. But, none of them were particularly great in this one. In fact, most of them were downright bad. To be fair, I’m not sure that even Daniel Day-Lewis himself could’ve saved this movie’s bad dialogue. It was Tommy Wiseau’s The Room level of bad at points. I’ve not seen all of the writer’s movies, but I can already tell you that I’m not a fan. His Rotten Tomatoes page tells me I’m not missing much either. And, while I do like them, none of these actors really have the bravado to sell a bad line. That is, except for Tim Curry of course. I don’t know what it is about him but he thrives in below average movies. He’s almost always the best part. He can take cheese and ham it up into something special. This is no exception. I’m a big fan of Curry’s work here. His scenes were always a highlight.

The other problem I had with The Three Musketeers is that the action is a little lacking. With the practical sets and extravagant costumes, I was expecting something in the vein of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood. But, every time things seemed like they were starting to ramp up into an intense action set piece, everything would resolve itself fairly quickly and we’d lose that momentum. I can’t help but wonder what this would’ve looked like with the Pirates of the Caribbean team on board. I know it’s ten years earlier, but that level of stunt choreography would’ve helped a lot. Take that and mix it with the grand setting and flamboyant costumes? I’m not sure you would even need good writing to make that worth watching. Instead of talking about how bad the dialogue is, I’d be praising how fun this movie is. I wanted it to be fun. Why wasn’t it fun?

Overall, The Three Musketeers is completely middle of the road. The costumes and settings are impressive, but the dialogue and stiff acting kills any potential this movie had. I’d definitely say you’re ok with skipping this one.

#161 – The Shaggy Dog (1959)

Director: Charles Barton

Writers: Lillie Hayward and Bill Walsh

Starring: Fred MacMurray, Jean Hagen, Tommy Kirk, Annette Funicello, and Tim Considine

Plot: A teenage boy is turned into a dog by a magic ring until he breaks the curse by performing a heroic act. 

Review: Speaking of movies I wanted to love… woof. The Shaggy Dog is ruff. (Ok, I’ll stop with the puns.) What really stinks is that I can see it’s potential. It’s got the makings of a fairly decent family comedy, but, man, did they overcomplicate this one. The plot became so insane that I, as an adult, could barely follow along. And what plot I could keep track of was cheesy as heck. The idea of a boy turning into a dog is maybe the most believable thing in this story.

The dog stuff was cute enough. It’s a fun plot point to see a wrench like this thrown into a typical whitebread American family. The transformations were clever. The puppet used for the talking dog was good enough. I got a couple of laughs out of a dog brushing his teeth and driving a car. And, how he does stuff and people stop and give a shocked look like “did I just see what I think I saw?”. It’s also silly that his dad doesn’t like dogs so he has to hide from him. Man, what a cute, simple movie! Oh… there’s more to it than that? Weird.

When I was doing my research for this review, I found a very telling quote from star Tommy Kirk. He said, “At the time, I viewed it as a fairy tale, but in later years, I’ve come to think that the film has one of the screwiest combinations of plot elements in any movie ever made. It has all the realistic elements of the Cold War — Russian spies plotting against the government — mixed in with a rivalry over Annette between two teenage boys, mixed in with a fantasy about a boy who turns into a dog because he encounters a ring from the Borgias.” That about sums up my feelings on the movie too but in a not so positive light. This movie is jam packed with stuff, but not in a good way. There are three distinct plots occurring and I only cared about the one. Most of the teenage dating stuff annoyed me. I didn’t really care for most of the kids so their romantic escapades didn’t catch my interest. So, I was already waning when they introduced the spy stuff. And, holy crap, why is there spy stuff in this movie? It’s not even particularly interesting spy stuff. This is the kind of stuff I’d expect in an episode of Arthur. Just vaguely threatening Russian (?) spies planning on stealing something (?) in the middle of an American suburban neighborhood foiled by a bunch of children. It’s very strange. I feel like no one properly warned me about this. I’ve only been told that The Shaggy Dog was a cute movie about a teenager turning into a pooch. What is all of this extra stuff? Did everyone else forget about it? Did I watch the wrong movie? What is happening?

Overall, I don’t know exactly how I feel about The Shaggy Dog, but I don’t think I liked it. There’s just too much going on. The dog stuff works, but I was bored by everything else. 

The Disney Smackdown

This is where we quickly compare the movies against metrics that almost all Disney movies meet. It won’t necessarily determine the winner, but it will help break some stuff down into a nice digestible format.

Our Heroes: Our main character in The Three Musketeers is D’Artagnan. He’s a young man who would like to join the recently disbanded musketeers to live up to his deceased father’s legacy. He’s also a little headstrong, cocky, and slightly dimwitted. He meets each of the other musketeers by pissing them off and being challenged to a duel. Literally, all three of them within like ten minutes. And, we later see him reveal his whole plan to the villain. It’s not in some kind of forced manner either. He just meets her and immediately starts spilling his guts. It’s quite odd. But, for the most part, his head is in the right place. He just wants to be a hero. Honestly, with Chris O’Donnell playing him, it was hard not to compare him to Robin in Batman Forever. It’s almost exactly the same role. I guarantee you the producers of Batman thought of him for that role after seeing him in this. 

Our hero in The Shaggy Dog is Wilby Daniels. He’s just your average, everyday American boy who… builds bombs in his basement? Yeah. The first thing we see this kid do is almost blow up his family’s home with a missile in the basement. So, that should play into the plot later, right? Oh, no. He is supposed to be your average teenager, but just slightly more awkward. He fights with his friends over girls. He hides from his stereotypical 50’s straight-edge dad. So, we’re already kind of on a weird path before we even see this kid turn into a dog. I mean, I guess he’s a good kid. We’re not rooting against him. He’s just weird and slightly boring, like the movie itself. 

I’m gonna give the win to The Three Musketeers. He’s at least a realistic person.

Our Beloved Side Characters: Fittingly enough, most of the supporting cast in The Three Musketeers is made up of… well, the three musketeers. There’s Aramis. He’s played by Charlie Sheen, so you probably already know his personality. He’s a womanizer. He’s sassy. He’s cocky. He… is super religious. Ok, maybe that part is a bit unpredictable. Still, he’s basically Charlie Sheen in a feathered hat. Then, there’s Athos, as played by Keifer Sutherland. He’s the noble one with a dark past. He takes his work, his responsibility, and his drinking very seriously. Unfortunately, that also means he’s kind of the most boring one. And, finally, we’ve got Porthos, played by Oliver Platt. He’s kind of a show-off. He’s constantly pulling new and interesting weapons out in the middle of battle. He’s also probably the funniest of the musketeers. His schtick was a simple one, but I enjoyed it. Outside of the musketeers, the only characters I really took note of were Queen Anne and King Louis. She was portrayed as a real badass, instantly seeing through the villain’s plot, while he was a weaker sort that was super gullible. I appreciated their performances, even if they weren’t featured much. 

Our side characters in The Shaggy Dog, unfortunately, aren’t very likable. In fact, I was ready to throw two of these characters into the villain category, despite the movie telling me otherwise. First of all, there’s Wilby’s dad, Wilson. This guy is a total piece of crap. He talks down to his family. He poo poos on his kids’ hobbies. And, he’s super judgmental towards his neighbors. We’re told early on that he’s a people person, but the movie doesn’t portray him in that way. Or, at least, he’s not one based on modern standards. But, worst of all, the guy hates dogs. I get that he’s allergic to them and used to be a mailman, but his level of hatred seems unjustified. Like, you’d think every dog he sees has personally killed a close family member by his reactions to them. He even chases one through his suburban neighborhood WHILE SHOOTING A SHOTGUN AT HIM at one point just because it was in his house. It’s not some random dog either. He’s pretty sure it belongs to his neighbor. What the hell? That character definitely does not hold up. The other piece of crap human being is Buzz Miller, Wilby’s best friend. Again, I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to like this kid but his actions are despicable. When he and Wilby take two girls to the dance, he tries very hard to somehow make Wilby’s date fall for him instead. This ends up throwing his date and his best friend under the bus. It’s really scummy. And that’s not the only time it happens either. This dude is constantly looking out for his own best interests. But, again, the movie tells us that he’s not a bad guy. He’s just “conceited.” Bullshit. He’s awful. The rest of the characters aren’t so bad, but are kind of bland. There’s the two girls Allison and Francesca. They’re both alright. As far as 50s entertainment goes, they are rather strong characters. They at least do stand up for themselves a little bit. Then, there’s the rest of the Daniels family. The mom, Frida, is kind of your typical 50s housewife. While his brother Moochie is super adorable in how supportive he is of his brother.

This is another win for The Three Musketeers. Regardless of their acting abilities, the musketeers are likable people.

Villainous Villains: Like I said in my review, my favorite character in The Three Musketeers was Tim Curry’s Cardinal Richelieu. Whenever you see Curry in the villain role, you know you’re in for a good time. The dude just chews scenery like no one else. Every single one of his lines is delivered perfectly and make for great six second Youtube clips. His wicked grin and deep, drawling voice just do so much for me. Plus, he plays such a conniving, evil character here. I loved his performance and there’s not a lot to love in this movie. Likewise, I found his sidekick Captain Rochefort to be fascinating too. First of all, he just looks great. With his all-black get-up, his eye patch, that douchey facial beard, and the flowing hair, he’s just instantly recognizable as a cheesy, fun bad guy. And, he’s got this air about him where you can tell that he thinks he’s better than everyone around him. I’ve never really taken note of this actor before (which is weird because I’ve seen a lot of his stuff), but he’s right behind Curry in his campy goodness here. There’s a third villain too called Milady de Winter. We don’t really get to know her all that well, but the big reveal with her is one of the more interesting parts of the movie. I really enjoyed her relationship with Athos as well. Overall, the villains of The Three Musketeers are really freaking strong though.

I can’t tell you a single thing about Dr. Mikhail Valasky from The Shaggy Dog, other than that he’s Russian (?), a spy, evil, and Francesca’s step(?)-dad. That’s literally all I know. I’m not sure I could even point the actor out in a picture of the cast in the next week or two.

This is the easiest win for The Three Musketeers yet. Tim Curry elevates each and every movie he’s ever been in.

Quotable Quotes: From The Three Musketeers: After being told the queen would rather die: “That can be arranged.” “God, I love my work!” “Rochefort. Isn’t that a smelly kind of cheese?” “Only a fool would try and arrest us twice in one day.”

From The Shaggy Dog: “I like you much better as a dog.” “I think that dogs don’t like mailmen because — well, because sometimes they bring bad news.”

You know something is amiss when writing as bad as The Three Musketeers starts winning.

Songs to Add to Your Playlist: While I listened to it and it did almost nothing for me, I guess “All for Love,” the credits song from The Three Musketeers by Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, and Sting, was a bit of a hit the year the movie was released. While I enjoy all three of those guys and the song isn’t bad, I don’t think it’s something I’d go out of my way to listen to. It’s nothing special. 

There’s a 50s style bop at the beginning of The Shaggy Dog that gets you in the mood for the wacky romp you’re about to watch. Unfortunately, it doesn’t prepare you quite enough. It’s still an adorable enough little song. I don’t think I’d listen to it outside of the movie though. 

I won’t find myself jamming out to either any time soon, but, if I had to pick, I guess I’d choose “All for Love” from The Three Musketeers.

Most Magical Disney Moment: During the finale of The Three Musketeers, D’Artagnan and Rochefort come face to face. In one of the rare good action scenes, they battle up and down the castle stairs. The backdrop is gorgeous. The fight choreography is great. Like I said before, Rochefort is a top-notch cheesy villain. And, these two have a really clever back and forth. Plus, a couple really important, emotional revelations are made. It definitely has more than a hint of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, but it made for one of the better moments in the movie. I wish the whole movie was like this.

Before The Shaggy Dog got too weird, Wilby comes home in dog form for the first time. He changes into his pajama, goes to the bathroom, and tucks himself into bed. Meanwhile, his little brother is watching on in bewilderment, wondering if he’s dreaming. It’s more or less what I was expecting from this movie. I wish they had stayed down this path. The gag might’ve gotten old, but at least it wouldn’t feel overcrowded.

I’m going to give this one to The Shaggy Dog. It’s the one scene in both of these movies that gave me exactly what I wanted.

Legacies: The legacy for The Three Musketeers isn’t great. The movie only has a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.4 on IMDB. The movie wasn’t a huge financial success, barely making back its budget. Chris O’Donnell was nominated for Worst Supporting Actor at that year’s Razzies. The only real other impact is that the song “All for Love” was a massive hit, reaching #1 on the charts. There was also a two-part comic book adaptation put out by pre-Disney Marvel. Overall, The Three Musketeers is definitely more or less a relic of the 1990s. It has really left much of a mark on Disney or society as a whole. 

Actually, The Shaggy Dog’s legacy is quite large. It has a 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.5 on IMDB. As far as box office goes, it made nine times its budget. That made it the second-biggest film of 1959 and the most profitable Disney flick up to that point. There were two direct sequels, one theatrical and one made for television, as well as two remakes, again one theatrical and one made for television. Due to its box office success, The Shaggy Dog kicked off a stream of movies nicknamed “gimmick comedies” where something wacky happens to a middle-class whitebread family. These would go on for decades and would hold the company afloat through some of their rougher patches. So, yeah, The Shaggy Dog was massively important to the overall legacy of the Walt Disney Company.

With all of those remakes, sequels, and box office receipts, it’s easy to see that The Shaggy Dog had the better legacy.

AND THE WINNER IS…

THE THREE MUSKETEERS

As much as I didn’t want to, I have to admit that The Three Musketeers is a better movie. I didn’t really enjoy either one, but Musketeers at least told a more streamlined story. And, as I mentioned, the characters were better too. I’m not looking forward to watching it again, but at least I’ll be able to spend more time with that Tim Curry performance!

Congratulations, D’Artagnan and the three musketeers! You move on to fight another day!

Be sure to check in for the next match-up, where Coco faces off against The Santa Clause 2. It’s sure to be a good one. I’m going to try my best to get it up by Friday evening before this holiday weekend. No promises though. But, I’ll definitely try.

See you then!

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: