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The Legend of Zorro Review

By Shawn McKenzie 04/08/2006

Even though Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones had both been in many movies separately for many years, it wasn’t until the 1998 movie The Mask of Zorro that their combined chemistry launched both of their superstar careers.  That PG-13-rated action-adventure screamed for a sequel, but its follow-up, The Legend of Zorro, took a little too long to make.  Despite the fact that they geared it for a family audience with its PG rating, it does manage to be almost as fun as the first movie.

The people of California are voting whether the land should be admitted as the nation’s 31st state in the election of 1850, and it is evident that they are voting for it, because there is a group of bad guys plotting to stop it.  The scarred desperado Jacob McGivens (Nick Chinlund) and his men try to steal the vote box in the opening of the movie, but the legendary masked hero Zorro (Banderas) arrives on his black horse Tornado and saves the day.  Zorro swings in, knocks out the teeth of McGivens, and delivers the vote box back to Governor Riley (Pedro Armendariz.)  Unfortunately, he loses his mask and is spotted by Piko (Shuler Hensley) and Harrigan (Michael Emerson), two Pinkerton agents who are there to help with the smooth process of the election.  Back at home, Zorro…in his alter ego, Don Alejandro de la Vega…is having problems with wife Elena (Zeta-Jones) because she wants Don Alejandro to retire his Zorro profession and spend more time with her and their 10-year-old son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso)…who idolizes Zorro, and is actually almost as good with the swordplay skills.  Joaquin doesn’t know that his dad and Zorro are one and the same though, because he thinks that Don Alejandro is just a boring diplomat.  The Pinkertons confront Elena, saying that Zorro is messing up things for the California statehood process, so they threaten to expose Don Alejandro’s secret if she doesn’t do something about it.  Elena files for divorce and then later starts seeing a French aristocrat named Count Armand (Rufus Sewell), a former classmate and vineyard owner who, along with his right-hand man, Ferroq (Raúl Méndez), are members of a secret society called the Knights of Aragon who don’t want to see California become a state.  Meanwhile, after replacing his real teeth with wooden ones, McGivens terrorizes a young couple, Guillermo (Gustavo Sánchez Parra) and Blanca (Giovanna Zacarias) Cortez, with then intention of getting them to sell him their land in order to complete the railroad from Armand’s vineyard.  Zorro, still in a state of depression about his divorce, gets drunk and makes a fool of himself at a party hosted by Armand.  When he finds out the secret plot, he uses the help of his friend Friar Frey Felipe (Julio Oscar Mechoso) to defeat the bad guys, save the Cortez’s, and get his wife back.

Banderas and Zeta-Jones are reunited with their Mask director Martin Campbell, and they try to recapture the fun of the original.  The fun is there, but it might be that that the sexiness is gone in order to make it family-friendly.  Who can forget the memorable scene from the first movie when Zorro slashes off Elena’s dress with his sword?  In its place, we get the Zorro version of Banderas’ other film franchise, Spy Kids, with the introduction of Zorro’s kid.  Alonso luckily happens to be charming as the junior version of his old man, and he in fact steals the show in the action scenes involving him.  Chinlund and Sewell play stereotypical but effective bad guys, but so did the original movie.

I can forgive the filmmakers’ attempt to make this movie family friendly, but it doesn’t excuse two major things that I had a problem with.  First, Tornado was excessively cartoonish.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first movie, but I don’t remember the horse doing silly things like smoking and drinking.  Those were throwaway jokes that weren’t needed.  In addition, the anachronisms were awful.  I won’t list them all here, but the most blatant one was the appearance of President Abraham Lincoln (played by Pedro Mira) at the state induction ceremony.  Lincoln didn’t become President until 1861, a full eleven years after the events of this movie.  Why don’t they educate kids while they are entertaining them?  Probably because kids wouldn’t recognize Millard Fillmore, the President who was in office when California was admitted into the Union, since Fillmore isn’t on any of our U.S. currency or a head on Mt. Rushmore.

If you liked The Mask of Zorro, then I think that you might like The Legend of Zorro.  I wouldn’t even be opposed to a third movie, but since it only grossed $45 million (with an $80 million budget), I don’t see that as being likely.  It’s probably time to hang up the mask, but the legend will live on.

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