Kevin Reynolds must go down to the sea again, but who would splash into the Mediterranean with the director of Waterworld? Curiously, Richard Harris, Guy Pearce, and Jim Caviezel all signed up, with the doe-eyed Caviezel, martyr material in The Thin Red Line and Angel Eyes, taking the role of the wronged Edmond Dantes. For those unfamiliar with Alexandre Dumas’ 1844 novel—or any of the dozens of adaptations of it—Dantes is the hapless young French sailor who, on the verge of wedded bliss with his beloved Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk), is betrayed by Fernand Mondego (Pearce). Falsely accused of conspiring to return the exiled Napoleon to power, Dantes is jailed at Chateau d’If, an impregnable island prison. After years in solitary, Dantes meets fellow prisoner Abbe Faria (Harris), who accidentally tunnels into Dantes’ cell in an attempt to escape and ultimately provides the means for his getaway, as well as a treasure map. Dantes and his faithful pirate sidekick, Jacopo (Luis Guzman), find the riches, and soon the former outcast is introducing himself to the European aristocracy as the elegant—in a Las Vegas sort of way—Count of Monte Cristo. His only goal is revenge on Mondego and his circle, including Mercedes, who married Dantes’ betrayer after being told that her true love was dead. Scripter Jay Wolpert, one of the developers of The Match Game and Family Feud, has tinkered slightly with Dumas’ scenario, but he hasn’t made the sword-and-treachery saga any less of an antique. Shot in Ireland and Malta, the movie looks fine, but its sense of humor disrupts the atmosphere. Pearce’s performance is irksomely self-parodying, and Guzman could be auditioning for a Cheech & Chong flick. After all the various versions of The Count of Monte Cristo, it might well be time to treat the melodrama as a comedy, but Reynolds and Wolpert are not the guys to do it. —Mark Jenkins

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