The Legend of Zorro (2005) / Action-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and some language
Running Time: 129 min.
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rufus Sewell, Adrian Alonso, Nick Chinlund, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Raul Mendez
Director: Martin Campbell
Screenplay: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Review published November 4, 2005
As much as I enjoyed the original entry, The Mask of Zorro, I wasn't exactly clamoring for a sequel, figuring that filmmakers were lucky enough to get an old-fashioned action vehicle right once; lightning striking twice would require some sort of miracle. Lightning is nowhere to be found in this very uneven sequel, which takes the charms of the first film and overdoes them, to the point where it loses most of the audience that made the first entry a successful venture.
The first major difference comes from the overabundance of broad humor, mostly in the form of sight gags and slapstick, especially where wry humor and tongue-in-cheek action would have worked so much better. Zorro (Banderas, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) is the type of character that doesn't really need to be a comedian, but his deliciously subtle style lends for some choice moments of comic relief. Legend of Zorro's laughs are mostly forced, seemingly there just because someone thought there needed to be a laugh every "x" number of minutes.
Like the humor, the second attraction to any Zorro film, the action, is just as amped up to try to outdo the first film, much to its detriment. From the outset, when you see Zorro throw his hat to nail a guy across a courtyard, you know that all laws of physics, and any sense of believability, will be completely ignored for the duration. It's not enough for Zorro to defeat his opponents soundly, but he has to try to earn as many style points as possible, or nearly die trying. In nearly every Western made, there are always lots of shootouts and gunplay, but it's amazing how Zorro just happens to always pick fights with desperadoes that only engage in combat with swords, sabers, and foils.
Even taking his impressive skills as a given, it doesn't even begin to explain how others in the film have his prodigious skills. His wife Elena (Zeta-Jones, Ocean's Twelve) is nearly every bit his equal in the field of battle, which we can let slide because she had been established to have some modest ability in the first film. There's no explanation why his son would also be able to do similar feats, and when you see a friar, a man that never gets into confrontations, bust some serious moves during a fight scene, you know all it takes to be a great fighter is just a willingness to try. Unfortunately by doing so, it diminishes the abilities of Zorro to the point of being common where they should be exceptional.
Even with the apparent (and expected) case of sequel-itis to contend with, it seems the screenwriters of this entry spent too much time watching Notorious, and not enough time watching The Mask of Zorro. Most of the plot is lifted quite liberally from Hitchcock's classic, right down to the "MacGuffin" concealed in wine bottles. I'm not sure what happened to all of the alcohol that had originally been contained in the bottles, but based on the outcome of the film, my guess is it was all consumed during the development phase of this production.
The Legend of Zorro is a cash-in attempt where the studio overestimated just how avid the audience for the appealing first film is to see more of the same. The second misstep is the decision to aim this sequel directly at children too young to have even seen the first film. For those old enough to remember the first film and hope it rekindles the fun, it delivers on action, and the stars are still charismatic to make this watchable, but the excessive length and cloying cuteness make this second film one unbefitting a legend.
©2005 Vince Leo