The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) Blu-ray Review: Why Bother?

One of the delightful things many people enjoy when watching vintage flicks from the Golden Age of Hollywood is spotting the occasional goof or anachronism. Whether it be a visible wire in a “special effects” shot, a car in the background of the Old West, or a telephone pole on the moon, the odd flaw makes even some of the more wretched movies from yesteryear amusing. Such a sight is much less common in our modern age of filmmaking, though, so it’s doubly laughable when you encounter a “newer” film that is littered with so many chronological mistakes and errs — a movie like 2002’s The Count of Monte Cristo, for instance!

But then, when you’re marketing costume dramas towards teeny-boppers in 2002, I suppose continuity doesn’t matter. Maybe Americans were trying to ease the burden of 9/11. Perhaps they didn’t know enough to know any better. Or, it could just be another case of the American public not giving a shit. Hell if I know.

At the time, costume dramas were a bit of a trend, presenting vastly altered and imperfect visions of literary classics full of up-and-coming actors and actresses whom producers and agents alike were desperate to either bed or promote. I think it all started with The Man in the Iron Mask with Leonardo DiCaprio. Or was it The Mask of Zorro with Catherine Zeta-Jones? Personally, I think it started with 1995’s Sense and Sensibility, wherein some studio muckety-muck said, “Hey, I like the costumes, but is there something we can find that has some action in it?”

There are few titles in the literary world that have been adapted into feature-length moving pictures, television serials, stage plays, musicals and even radio shows as many times as The Count of Monte Cristo. And yet, you’d think that, after all the various incarnations of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, somebody would bound to get it right when it came to transferring the novel to the Silver Screen. This forgettable version of the story, filmed in 2000 but released in 2002 after its own production company, Disney, decided not to emit such a silly spectacle unto the public under their own family friendly label.

Yes, that’s right: even Disney had trepidations about releasing this one.

Now, while this particular account of The Count of Monte Cristo managed to make its money back at the box office, I can honestly say that it’s not because of any sort of grace and/or artistry. In fact, the movie’s overly bastardized script (courtesy Jay Wolpert) and careless direction (from Waterworld director Kevin Reynolds) make it a forgettable fiasco all around. Star Jim Caviezel does a pretty good job as our protagonist Edmond Dantès (even if he doesn’t bother trying for an accent), with Guy Pearce turning in a rather exaggerated performance as Mondego. Richard Harris is probably the best thing about the film as Abbé Faria (“The Mad Priest”), but the real star here is the oddly cast Luis Guzmán as Jacopo — who wears a funky wig throughout the film that makes him look like the Hispanic version of the Frankenstein Monster.

Several years late to the High-Def party, Disney brings us The Count of Monte Cristo to Blu-ray in a release that is basically nothing more than an upconverted version of the DVD that originally hit shelves in 2002. The same special features have been ported over from the previous home video issue as well, and are presented here in Standard Definition. They didn’t even bother to dig up any alternate artwork, giving it that same awful cover they used on the old SD-DVD and poster.

But then, why should they put any additional effort into a film that couldn’t even get its own story straight to begin with?

If you bought it before, there’s very little need to pick this release up, unless you want to watch it decades from now with your grandkids and point out all the continuity errors and sequential blunders.

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Luigi Bastardo

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