THE LEGEND OF ZORRO
** (out of 5)
October 28, 2005
Antonio Banderas as DON ALEJANDRO DE LA VEGA/ZORRO
Catherine Zeta-Jones as ELENA
Adrian Alonso as JOAQUIN
Rufus Sewell as ARMAND
Nick Chinlund as MCGIVINS
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Directed by: Martin Campbell
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I don’t know why it took so long to make this movie. It seemed like a Hollywood no-brainer. It was a huge blockbuster action film. It had two hot stars in it. It was a classic tale that actually inspired other heroes like Batman.
But then I saw the film, and I realized what a mess the script was. It was suddenly very clear to me that there must have been massive script revisions in development hell for years.
In this latest adventure of Zorro, Don Alejandro (Antonio Banderas) is struggling with his domestic issues as much as the criminal element in 19th century California. His wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is nagging him about spending more time with his family. His son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso) doesn’t know him at all and spends more time chasing his father’s alter ego.
Like a couple in modern day Hollywood, Elena and Alejandro sweep through a divorce. He takes time off from his Zorro crime-fighting because things are actually relatively peaceful. California is prepping to become a state of the Union, and the criminal element seems to be suppressed. However, when a psychotic land baron tries to sabotage the quest for statehood, Alejandro must don the mask again.
I really wanted to enjoy this movie. Honestly, I did. And when it opened with a massive crowd scene where Zorro saves the day, I was hoping we’d get it. But the script broke down pretty quickly. There are three main reasons why “The Legend of Zorro” just doesn’t hold up against its predecessor.
The first is the aforementioned script. It meandered around, trying to be several different movies. At one point, it’s an action. At another point, it’s a kitchen sink drama. And yet another, it’s a screwball comedy.
So many of the scenes just were out of place. There’s an entire reel in the middle of the movie in which Alejandro and Elena bicker during a dance ball. While there’s a modicum on exposition that occurs here, it’s really an unnecessary thing. Also, there’s a scene where Zorro saves a peasant family living on a ranch. It’s a great action scene, but even now I cannot figure out what it had to do with the overall plot.
About two-thirds through the film, I realized the story was not much more than a rehash of “Wild Wild West.” It had all the major elements – the Confederate conspiracy, the creepy and semi-deformed henchman, the payload of nitroglycerine, the climax at a remote location on the train tracks. I understand the desire in Hollywood to copy other films, but why did they copy such a renowned box office clunker?
The other problem is age. I’m sorry to point this out, but Antonio Bandaras is looking old, and that detracts from the character. He just doesn’t look fresh. And Catherine Zeta-Jones, while still a beautiful woman, isn’t as stunning as she once was. She’s like McDonald’s french fries. They’re really good. But have you ever had McDonald’s fries when they’ve just come out of the fryer? They’re incredible. In the first films, Zeta-Jones was as hot as ultra-fresh fries. Now, she’s just fries. Maybe her geezer hubby Michael Douglas is rubbing off on her.
The final problem was the humor. It was too much, and it was completely misplaced. It seems that the studio intervened too often, demanding low brow kiddie humor to make it a family film. Take Zorro’s horse, for example. In the first film, it was stubborn and had a mind of his own. In this movie, he drinks, belches and smokes a pipe. Seriously, a burping horse! Ugh. It’s like a bad cartoon.