Mattel's latest gender-reversed classic in the "Barbie" animated series begins on a farm in Gascony where Corinne, daughter of the famous D'Artagnan, is practicing her swordfighting moves. (Her idea of swordfighting appears to owe more to the "Zorro" films than anything you would actually expect to find in 17th century France, but never mind.)
Corinne's life's ambition is to follow in her father's footsteps by becoming a royal musketeer. When she turns 17 she goes to Paris to enlist, carrying like D'Artagnan before her, a letter of introduction to Monsieur de Treville, Captian of the King's musketeers.
Unfortunately for Corinne, the 17th century French authorities are not ready for the idea of a lady musketeer (this reluctance being probably the most plausible part of the film.) So instead she has to accept a job as a maid at the palace.
Just as D'Artagnan fell foul of "the three musketeers" on his first day in Paris and agreed to fight duels with each of them, Corinne has unfortunate meetings with three other girls while attempting to rescue her pet cat from an unpleasant dog belonging to the film's villain, and then finds that they are her new work colleagues.
Despite this unfortunate start, Corinne becomes friends with her new colleagues and it turns out that all four share an ambition to be royal musketeers. So they begin to train in secret.
Meanwhile the handsome Prince Louis, heir to the throne, is about to be crowned King on reaching his majority. His cousin Phillipe, who has been ruling France as Regent while Louis was a child, is less than happy at handing over power. But the Regent's nefarious plans are about to run into a most unexpected obstacle ...
From my adult perspective this was quite the most ridiculous of all the Barbie films - the fact that the music to the climax of the film was the song "unbelievable" seemed only too appropriate. But this isn't aimed at adults, it's aimed at little girls and I have to report that my eight year old daughter loved it, as did her twin brother. And in fact some of the jokes in the film are quite funny: they had my wife as well as our children laughing out loud and raised a few smiles even from me.
Like all the Barbie films "Barbie and The Three Musketeers" is beautifully made, charming, and, if my daughter is anything to go by, can hold the attention of a little girl for hours. It has all the usual Barbie elements: a relentlessly positive heroine, cute talking animals, handsome hero, wicked villain, the most tenuous link to the original story, etc, etc ...
Before we first rented any of the Barbie videos for my daughter, I was expecting them to be trite, over-commercialised, over-sugary and over here. In general, however, I have been pleasantly surprised.
Yes, they do have a lot of commercial spin-offs and a high saccharine count, but the quality of that film and the other Barbie videos we have subsequently bought or rented, was significantly higher than I had originally expected before I saw the first one. They have not just kept my children engrossed for hours - including my son as well as my daughter - but introduced them to some beautiful stories. Several of them also introduced my children to great musical classics: others, of which this is one, had instead some enjoyable original or modern music. In all cases Mattel had hired first class international orchestras to provide the instrumental soundtrack.
On more than one occasion I have been listening to a CD of a classic such as Beethoven's pastoral symphony (Beethoven: Symphony No.6), or "The Queen of the Night's aria" from Mozart's opera "Mozart: The Magic Flute", and my daughter, who was then five years old, recognised and expressed appreciation of the music, and correctly remembered which Barbie film had used it. ("Barbie - The Magic Of Pegasus [DVD
]" and "Barbie - Mermaidia [DVD
The music for "Barbie and the three musketeers" is easy on the ear, though this is not one of those Barbie films - there are some - which you would buy for the music.
For reference, the Barbie films with beautiful musical scores taken largely from the classics include
"Barbie - Swan Lake [DVD] [2003
]" (with music from the ballet of that name)
"Barbie In The Nutcracker [DVD] [2001
Barbie and the Magic Of Pegasus (Beethoven)
Fairytopia II: Mermaidia (Mozart)
"Barbie - In The 12 Dancing Princesses [DVD
"Barbie - Barbie In A Christmas Carol [DVD] [2008
]" (various traditional carols)
The two best with music which is original rather than taken from the classics, are "Barbie - The Island Princess [DVD] [2007
]" and "Barbie As The Princess And The Pauper [DVD
]" the music for which I can particularly recommend.
In terms of production values, the DVD runs very smoothly and is fairly easy to navigate around: it is as visually beautiful as any of the Barbie films to date, which is quite a high standard, and contains a few extras such as games.
Those people who enjoy criticising the way Mattel operate the Barbie franchise will not have much difficulty finding things in these films to sneer at. If you, or more importantly your kids, are allergic to an excess of twee sweetness, then these DVDs and the Barbie videos generally may not be for them.
One charge which is sometimes made against the Barbie films but which does not hold much water is the idea that they reinforce gender stereotypes, and that criticism does not appear at all applicable to this particular film. It's a gender reversed story, and the heroine and central character is far more interested in foiling plots against the King than in going on a date with him.
To summarise, these films are beautifully made, and will hold the attention of most small children for long enough for the typical exhausted parent to clear the mess they have made in several rooms of the house or collapse for an hour's rest after doing so. And there are enough more sophisticated jokes thrown in that you won't be completely bored to death if you decide to watch "Barbie and the Three Musketeers" with your offspring.