The Legend of Zorro
Belated sequel is no Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it knows how to buckle a swash or two
By Devin D. O'Leary
The Legend of Zorro
Directed by Martin Campbell
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rufus Sewell
This somewhat belated follow-up to 1998's fun, frivolous The Mask of Zorro finds much of the same cast and crew (stars Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, director Martin Campbell) reunited for more old-fashioned derring-do in the wild, wild West.
It's several years after the events of Mask. Anthony Hopkins has gone on in search of more Oscars and our heroes, Don Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Banderas) and Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), are now not-so-happily married. (She wants to raise a family; he wants to swordfight with bad guys.) With California about to join the United States, though, it looks like Zorro's struggle for freedom and justice is coming to an end. With the nasty king of Spain out of the picture, who is there for Zorro to fight? Fortunately, some evil foreign nationals are soon conspiring to disrupt the new union and only Zorro can save the day.
This sword-swinging, whip-wielding outing is considerably sillier and more “family”-oriented than the last one. Our hero and heroine now have a young son (11-year-old Adrian Alonso) who's prone to imitating the acrobatic stunts of his masked idol. This, apparently, gives youngsters raised on the antics of Spy Kids something to identify with. (Back in my day, kids were perfectly capable of identifying with adults, but I suppose times have changed.) Loads of slapstick humor--including a drunken horse stolen directly from 1965's Cat Ballou--are also included to keep things from getting too PG-13. Kids will be perfectly pleased; adults might be forced to roll their eyes a time or two.
The film, produced once again by Steven Spielberg, loots the movie serials of the '40s for inspiration. That isn't exactly inappropriate. Zorro began life as a series of pulp novels in the '20s by author Johnston McCulley. Zorro came to further life in movies (the first of which starred Douglas Fairbanks), a comic book series (most famously drawn by Alex Toth) and a popular '50s TV show (starring “Lost in Space” dad Guy Williams, who--believe it or not--was actually of Spanish descent). The makers of Legend of Zorro have freely pillaged this history. The rooftop train fight, the “getting dragged by a stage coach” gag, the burning barn rescue: All the standards of the sagebrush saga are here. For the most part, it works. Still, when it comes to recreating the movie serials of yesteryear, you're always going to look pale in comparison to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Legend is no Raiders.
The script, this time around, comes to us courtesy of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the dunderheaded duo who gave us this summer's The Island. As a result, there are plenty of massive gaps in logic on display here, including a villainous plot that has to rank as one of the most ill-conceived in movie history. (Here's a tip, bad guys: Why not build your headquarters in, say, Virginia? There's less of a commute.) Much of the action is over-the-top. Not exactly Will Smith in Wild, Wild West over-the-top, but things do seem to blow up with far more frequency than they probably did in the real 1820s.
Nonetheless, when it's at its swashbuckling best, The Legend of Zorro is pure popcorn fun, the kind of old-fashioned adventure cinema that used to pack movie theaters back in the '40s. There are moments--not the moments where Zorro's horse is smoking a pipe, mind you--but there are moments when you can almost see the Technicolor ghost of Errol Flynn swinging through with an approving smile on his face.
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