Back Shelf Beauties
The Legend of Zorro
The return pairing of Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones is strong. The writer's and director's grasp of American History is weak. Yet, I found myself yelling, "long live The Legend of Zorro!"
Set in 1850 (remember this date, it will lead to a wonderful putdown later in the review) Banderas returns as Don Alejandro de la Vega. By day, he is a respected and beloved town leader in California, who is having some troubles in his marriage with Elena (Jones). By night, he is the legendary, mysterious, populist do-gooder known as Zorro, who battles corruption and evil with his blade, wits and trusty horse.
California is in the middle of a referendum election (they seem to have lots of those) asking voters if the territory should become a state in the United States of America. Knowing statehood will bring much needed federal law enforcement, Alejandro has promised Elena he will retire Zorro and spend more time with the family if the measure passes, but Elena is not so sure he can follow up on the guarantee. Of course, Zorro must ride again when two mysterious men discover his identity, kidnap Elena, and force her to divorce Alejandro. Months later, she resurfaces at the side of an old flame, Count Armand (Rufus Sewell), which raises Alejandro's ire and causes him to investigate strange happenings on Armand's vineyard.
What is Armand up to? Can he disrupt California statehood? Will Elena and Alejandro get back together? Is this the end of Zorro?
The Legend of Zorro is about what you expect and want if you are a fan or just looking for a good, light-hearted time at the cineplex. Director Martin Campbell fills the movie with plenty of action-filled sword fights, battles between good and evil, a cute kid to make you smile, and silly moments to make you laugh. However, you might also find yourself laughing at some of the historical inaccuracies.
One member of Armand's grand scheme (and you know Armand has a scheme because he is the bad guy who has stolen Zorro's woman) is supposed to be a CONFEDERATE General, which is hard to do when the Confederacy did not come into creation until 1861! In another scene, we are treated to a man who looks REMARKABLY like Abraham Lincoln! This is impossible since Lincoln spent 1850 mourning the loss of his son and traveling Illinois' 8th Circuit Court as a lawyer (the district covered 400 miles and 14 counties, earning Lincoln the reputation of being a top notch lawyer). He was several years removed from his time in Congress, and a few years before his re-entrance into politics, so Lincoln has no reason to be in California, even if it was a vacation.
Campbell and the writers (Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci ) get burned twice for these inaccuracies. First, you don't need the Civil War angle to make the grand scheme more interesting or compelling. The plot, while a little silly and reminiscent of other movies, is good enough to keep the film's action moving forward with a purpose. Second, they look like idiots to anyone with a basic understanding of American history. I know Campbell is from New Zealand, so I can cut him some slack (he doesn't have to know this stuff like a High School Sophomore in America should), but someone from the studio should have sent him a history book before the movie started filming (probably someone at the studio who failed American History while a sophomore in high school). You might as well have Arnold Schwarzenegger showing up to play the Governor of California complete with limo and driver. Maybe Zorro can chill out while listening to his iPod (in his case, a zPod). These gross mistakes take away from our enjoyment of an otherwise fun movie.
Again, Banderas proves he is an underrated actor. His smoldering charisma, physical ability to make the action look real and comic chops make Banderas the best part of The Legend of Zorro. He gets the audience riled up and on his side as he battles the bad guys. Jones does what she can with limited screen time, especially as her role becomes more important towards the end, and she is able to shine as the equally tough battling wife of the hero.
Rounding out the cast is little Adrian Alonso as Joaquin -Alejandro and Elena's smart mouthed, Zorro-loving son. While his story is the most predictable (he loves Zorro, not so enamored with Dad, and will face a big shock when he finds out they are the same person, kid must feel like he is in a soap opera), Alonso is a treat whether getting involved in the fighting, rolling off one-liners or getting to meet his hero.
The Legend of Zorro has a great pace, good action, and fun acting. Just make sure you get a history lesson from your teachers and not the Cineplex.
3 Waffles (Out Of 4)
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