The Legend of Zorro

Cast:
Antonio Banderas as Don Alejandro de la Vega/Zorro
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena de La Vega
Rufus Sewell as Armand
Nick Chinlund as McGivens
Adrian Alonso as Joaquin
Giovanna Zacarías as Blanca Cortez
Raúl Méndez as Ferroq
Pedro Armendáriz Jr. as Governor Don Pedro
Michel Bos as Archduke Wilhelm
Mar Carrera as Marie
Michael Emerson as Harrigan
Shuler Hensley as Pike
Hans Oellers as Baron Leopold
Gustavo Sanchez-Parra as Cortez

Summary:
“The Legend of Zorro” features some good stunts, some amusing moments, and great chemistry between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as good as the first film thanks to an unsatisfying story and some cheesy moments.

Story:
Ten years after “The Mask of Zorro”, Don Alejandro de la Vega and Elena de La Vega are married with a young son, Joaquin. Alejandro continues to crusade as Zorro and he helps California enter into statehood with the United States. Elena sees it as a perfect opportunity for Alejandro to retire as Zorro and spend more time with her and his young son. However, Alejandro feels a deep sense of duty towards his people and isn’t willing to hang up the mask and sword just yet. After an argument, the two separate. Shortly after, Elena inexplicably divorces Alejandro.

Three months later Alejandro is still separated from Elena and finds himself growing more distant from his son. He also hasn’t been Zorro since peace has settled in the land. To make matters worse, Elena has become romantically involved with Armand, a Frenchman who she knew from her days in finishing school in Spain. But as jealousy and alcohol consume the former hero, he discovers that Armand isn’t everything he seems to be. The aristocrat may be involved in a scheme to undermine California’s efforts to join the Union. Can Zorro get his act together, stop the villains, and reclaim his family before it’s too late?

“The Legend of Zorro” is rated PG for sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments.

What Worked:
I was a big fan of “The Mask of Zorro”, so I was very eager to see this sequel. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high, but I found the original film to be better than this sequel. “The Legend of Zorro” is still good for some laughs and some impressive fight scenes, though.

The most notable feature of this movie is the action sequences. The movie opens with a pretty cool (though occasionally cheesy) chase sequence and fight. It features a few unique stunts with Zorro and his whip as well as some impressive moments where Zorro is hauling at full speed across scaffolding with bad guys in hot pursuit. The rest of the movie is a series of smaller fights until the big finale on a train. Again, parts of the train fight are cheesy, but there are an equal number of cool, unique stunts. For example, Zorro actually jumps off a cliff with his horse and lands on a moving train. It’s a bit far fetched, but as a tunnel approaches, it turns into an amusing and harrowing stunt to keep Zorro and his horse from getting slammed on the tunnel face. In short, if you can handle some of the unrealistic or comic book moments, you’ll have fun.

Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have great chemistry yet again. The movie doesn’t even get really good until they are back on the screen together after their separation. Banderas still makes a perfect Zorro and a great flawed hero. Even when he hits rock bottom you still cheer for him to get back into the fight. Zeta-Jones does some quite impressive swordfighting in the film. She really handled the action well and is still an appealing leading lady. Adrian Alonso plays their son, Joaquin. It’s dangerous to throw a kid into an established action series (see Star Wars, The Mummy, etc.), but he’s generally a good addition to the film. He’s spunky, spirited, and fun to watch. Kids are going to love his character. While he seems like excess baggage at the end of the movie, a scene where he teams with his father to break out of jail works really well. He’s also funny imitating Zorro and breaking out of school.

What Didn’t Work:
As good as “The Legend of Zorro” is for some light entertainment, it could have been better. First of all, the story isn’t all that great. The movie goes out of its way to tear Alejandro and Elena apart, but the reason never seems that legitimate. Elena is too smart, spirited, and resourceful to be willing to tear her family apart with divorce just to do what she does. (I don’t want to spoil too much here.) I never bought it. The movie doesn’t get back on track until she and Alejandro are inevitably reunited, and that’s an hour into the film. In short, they scrapped one of the main features that made the first film appealing – the relationship between Alejandro and Elena.

The story also tried too hard to apply modern themes to a story that takes place in 1850. Alejandro and Elena get an L.A. style quickie divorce. Joaquin must deal with a broken home and a father that’s too busy with work. There’s also pro-America flag waving alongside paranoia about foreign threats to U.S. national security. I mean, Zorro even fights pre-Civil War terrorists. It was all a little much. It didn’t help matters that the movie seemed to take potshots at Christianity (despite having a heroic monk). The villain McGivens, played by Nick Chinlund, spouts biblical quotes while killing people and he has a hideous cross scar on his face.

On the flip side, Zorro seems to only kill one person in the film. Despite fighting dozens of bad guys trying to kill a mother and child, he never actually stabs someone with his sword. He resorts to acrobatics and swordplay antics while an infant is about to burn to death. It wasn’t very realistic. All the violence is really sanitized. Even Tyrone Power in the 1940 Zorro movie was willing to stab someone to save the day. I guess this was done to make it kid friendly, but it didn’t make it satisfying. Speaking of being kid friendly, at one point in the movie Joaquin calls the bad guys “sons of bitches”. It’s not something most parents want their kids repeating, but you know that children are going to try and imitate the kid thanks to all of his other antics in the movie. Parents, be warned.

Many of the fight scenes were also peppered with outrageous acrobatic antics that really took away from the action. Zorro flies through the air like a gymnast in an effort to look cool. The big finale is also filled with so many improbable stunts that you really have to turn your brain off to enjoy it.

On a final note, James Horner’s music in the first movie was absolutely fantastic. He had a great theme and the music was perfectly matched with the action in the film. However, his music this time around is really only a reprisal of his theme in the first movie. And that theme is played over and over and over. It’s nice, but there’s nothing new here.

The Bottom Line:
“The Legend of Zorro” is a fun movie, but it’s not as good as the original. Fans of Banderas and Zeta Jones will enjoy it quite a bit, but it’s also aimed at kids, too. If you liked the original, I still recommend checking out this sequel.

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