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Touchstone Pictures
Official Site
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman
Written by: Jay Wolpert
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, Luis Guzman, Dagmara Dominczyk

Rating: (For families with young children)out of 5
(All Others)out of 5

Perhaps it’s the childhood memory of a huge, wonderful book—one of my favorites pre-twelve years old—but THE COUNT OF MONTE CHRISTO from Touchstone Pictures and director Kevin Reynolds is not a movie I can recommend very far. In fact, it gives new meaning to the phrase “big screen TV.” I found myself wondering if I would have liked the movie Sunday night on television when I was nine. If you’re looking for family fare—AND you think your young ones will appreciate a big screen Disney TV show, or if you’re in the mood for hammy, nostalgic melodrama, this might be the movie for you, but only if you do not look for verisimilitude in your historicals and only if you can use both hands to continue suspending your disbelief.

Our story is simple. Edmund Dantes and the son of a young count are good friends, or so thinks Dantes. In reality, his aristocratic young friend envys Dantes his natural grace, his earned station, and his girlfriend, and this envy drives the young count to betray Dantes. When Dantes is imprisoned, the young count marries Dantes’ girlfriend and makes sure that Dantes goes to the worst, the most forgotten, the most inescapable of prisons. Still, Dantes escapes, finds a fortune, and returns to exact his revenge. Broad, yes, but we can see the bones of a great adventure. Unfortunately, we never get more than bones.

To enjoy this Kevin Reynolds’ Touchstone picture, you’ll have to be willing to put up with things like the world’s cleanest neglected prison; healthily rotund, ridiculously jovial guru prisoners (Harris); verbal anachronisms (“Let me take care of ’em—bam, bam, bam, bam,” says Luis Guzman at one point, like a line from an unproduced Tarantino film about a Bronx underworld bad guy); Guy Pearce frothingly over the top in bad prosthetic teeth; and myriad close-ups of perfectly clean, manicured fingernails.

Richard Harris as the prisoner guru, Luiz Guzman as the escaped Dantes’ Sancho Panza by way of the Bronx, and Guy Pearce as the terrible, despicable, horrible, dastardly bad guy, while over the top, are nevertheless very appealing, and Jim Caviezel as Edmund Dantes is handsome and earnest. The costumes are gorgeous. The Mediterranean locations are often beautiful, sometimes stunningly so, but most of this was filmed on antiseptic sound stages. If our script or director had been even a little more original, color and emotion just might have carried the day in this simple romantic tale of revenge and realization.

I didn’t loathe this film while watching it, but it never swept me up, and it never swept me away.

—Scott Whitebird

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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