The Barenaked Archives: The Legend of Zorro

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

The Legend of Zorro“It’s not as good as the first one.” That’s usually what people say when they walk out of the theater after seeing a sequel that was greenlit only because the first movie made so much money the studio decided that if it worked once, it could work again.

They don’t seem to understand that sometimes, a concept really is just a one-trick pony and by trying to stretch it out, you’ll most likely wind up with a sub-par product that will tarnish the memory of the original.

The Mask of Zorro wasn’t great cinema, but it was a fun swashbuckling adventure movie that really entertained you for two hours. The Legend of Zorro is still fun and entertaining, but its humor is aimed more for the kiddies and it runs a wee bit on the long side for being only PG.

The Legend of Zorro takes place some ten years after The Mask of Zorro, just as California is taking steps to becoming a state. Alejandro de la Vega, a.k.a. Zorro, (Antonio Banderas) has vowed to give up the mask to spend more time with his wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and son Joaquin.

When Elena leaves him after he’s forced to break his promise, Alejandro has to get her back while dealing with a new menace that threatens not only California’s impending statehood but also the entire country.

Needless to say, this is a movie you shouldn’t think about too much when you’re watching it. Otherwise pesky little exaggerations in logic (“But how did the horse outrun the runaway train?”) and absurd plot developments will dampen the entertainment value.

The plot is little more than an excuse to get Zorro into one swordfight after another, where he’s not allowed to actually kill any of his enemies – who, by the way, are very adept at surviving all manner of crashes and falls that would shatter the bones of normal people.

Speaking of the fight scenes, quite a few times the camera cuts back and forth so quickly that you lose a lot from the swordfights. You’d think they’d want to let the shots linger a little longer to wow the audience with the fighting prowess of those onscreen (isn’t that why we come to see these movies?), but no.

It also doesn’t help that there are places where the CGI is a more than a little obvious, enough to take you out of the movie and make you go, “Huh?”

With the addition of a young child to the family, it’s not much of a surprise that they try to make this Zorro installment a little more family-friendly than the last one. That means more slapstick humor and sight gags, especially from Zorro’s horse. (The general rule of thumb is that kids and animals always steal the scene, and in this case poor Zorro has to share the screen with both.)

Most of the jokes had the audience at the screening rolling in the aisles, and only a couple of times did they cross into the realm of the absurd.

For being a PG movie, it definitely runs too long (clocking in at 2 hours and 15 minutes) and some parts could’ve been cut…say, the now-standard hero-unmasking scene that has been in just about every movie involving a masked hero since Spider-man 2. For Pete’s sake, if you’re going to show everybody who the hero is, why put them in the mask in the first place?

Is The Legend of Zorro as good as its predecessor? Sadly, no. It’s too long for what it is and lacks some of the charm of the first movie. However, it is funny, mindless entertainment that sure beats about half the movies in theaters right now. But what am I saying? It’s Halloween, and you’re all going to rush out and see Saw II this weekend anyway.

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