The Legend of Zorro

Fitful swashbuckling shenanigans of the plainest vanilla.

Released in 2005, certified UK-PG. Reviewed on 23 Nov 2005 by Scott Morris
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I'm sure there's a lot of people who were very fond of the first neo-Zorro, or who at least watched it. I am not one of these people. One of those who watched it, that is, so I make no comment as to it's merits. Anyhow, it apparently did well enough to warrant this sequel but I'll say this - having seen this latest outing I've no urge to go back and fill the gap in my Zorro based knowledge base.

Short form - Zorro (Antonio Banderas) saves a ballot box from a fate worse than, or at least equal to, vote rigging in California's referendum on becoming a United State of America. His wife Elena (Catherine Zeta Jones) accuses him of breaking his promise to drop the mask and become a devoted father to his son. They argue, they divorce, time passes. Elena hooks up with dashing French nobleman import Armand (Rufus Sewell), who sports the Contractually Obligated Hidden Agenda. Elena and Zorro discover said plot to destabilise the U.S. before it's power and influence overtakes the old European order, and team up against Armand and his hired goons. There is a happy ending.

All of which sounds like a recipe for ninety minutes of swashbuckling fun. A pity that what's been cooked up is a turgid two hour ten minute long, sketchily paced Diet Action outing with side orders of slapstick and spy fiction. Actually, that's unnecessarily harsh. The Legend of Zorro is one of those irritating exercises where there's nothing much in it that can be held up as anything particularly bad, but there's certainly nowt you could call a shining example of all that is glorious in cinema. In a word, mediocre. Oh, goody.

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What else can I say about it? This is a film where the most memorable thing, and by 'most memorable' I mean 'only', is a horse that keeps trying to drink hard liquor and smoke the finest tabbacan. Contrived, no? And by 'no', I mean 'yes'.

Oh yes, there's a mini-Zorro. Lil' Joaquin (Adrian Alonso) seems to have inherited the swashbuckling, justice-dispensing, inequity-righting genes from his parents and plies this trade in both the schoolyard and as an occasional adjunct to the main storyline. This sort of cutesy nuisance is typically a deathblow for a film, certainly one with action sequences that want to have a degree of credibility, but it's not unbearable here. The main problem associated with it is that it's just bulking up a film that needed to be trimmed down.

There are several sizable stretches in The Legend of Zorro where the action doesn't just go into something of a lull, it grinds to a complete halt. Just as it seems to be building up something of a head of steam it smacks against a wall and spends half an hour on some tediously handled exposition. The attempt at interpersonal drama / romance between the big Z and his estranged ball and chain would be a welcome flourish if Banderas and Zeta Jones displayed any notable chemistry, but aside from a couple of scenes their relationship is as dragged out as the rest of the film.

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These are flaws, and these detract from your enjoyment, and they are, in an abstract sort of way, the things we ought to be getting angry about. The sad thing, at least I think it's sad, is that it's really too difficult to care enough about The Legend of Zorro to have much of an opinion on it one way or t'other. It's perfectly serviceable vacuous popcorn fodder, something you'll watch once and banish from memory almost instantly.

Damning it with faint praise perhaps, but sometimes that's all that's required of a movie. If that happens to be all you are after, then Legend of Zorro won't do too much to displease you. This doesn't make it a good movie, nor one I'll recommend over any one of a hundred other films of this ilk. Brainless popcorn munchers are a dime a dozen, and the only thing distinguishing it from any of the others is that this one is new. That distinction is fading by the week.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 2/5 TippyMarks.

Martin Campbell
Cast list:
Antonio Banderas (Zorro)
Catherine Zeta-Jones (Elena)
Rufus Sewell (Armand)
Alberto Reyes (Brother Ignacio)
Adrian Alonso (Joaquin)