U.S. Release Date: October 28, 2005
Distributor: Sony / Columbia
Director: Martin Campbell
Writer: Ted Elliott (story), Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Terry Rossio (story)
Producer: Gary Barber (executive), Roger Birnbaum (executive), Steven Spielberg (executive)
Composer: James Horner
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rufus Sewell
Running Time: 2 hours and 6 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments)

Zorro Buckles Under 21st Century Style
by Scott Holleran

Seven years after The Mask of Zorro paired Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in a zesty take on the swashbuckler, The Legend of Zorro rides again with the stars and the same director, Martin Campbell, taking another turn. It is a wrong turn.

The action begins swiftly enough, with Don Alejandro de la Vega's alter-ego, Zorro (Banderas), riding his horse, Tornado, and saving the village ballot box from one ugly bunch of white men. Zorro still swings, swoops and brandishes his sword with style, when he's allowed, though the action is the typical perceptual-bound assault. After branding his enemies, Zorro returns to the homestead and to his love, Elena (Zeta-Jones), now his wife, who is growing tired of the hero routine.

The seven-year itch (longer in the movie's timeline) has Mrs. Zorro nagging about spending time with the family—they have one kid (Adrian Alonso)—and taking a vacation. Yes, it is 1850—but as it never was, with pouting kids waiting to be picked up from school, our hero getting sloshed and someone resembling Abe Lincoln as president. Gone is the original's sense of skill, honor and aristocracy—this movie is something else.

After the bad men, led by Nick Chinlund, attack, they terrorize the town, threatening to seize private land and intimidating everyone from the town priest to the farmers. Their motive is unclear, but it's a mixture of racism, religion and whatever moves a white male axis of evil—a cabal of confederate soldiers and European knights—who are determined to attack Washington, D.C. with a weapon of mass destruction. Seriously.

Throw in undercover federal agents, computer-generated dogs, marital discord—it would seem Elena has left Zorro for a Frenchman (Rufus Sewell)—Mary Crosby (who shot J.R. 25 years ago) as the governor's apparently mute wife and prominently featuring Zorro's ten-year-old son, and it's a fiesta of four hundred subplots. Needless to say, this puts Zorro, who at some point becomes a devout Catholic and starts speaking exclusively in Spanish, in the background. Except for a few zippy lines—the couple retain their chemistry—the fun is lost in the mandate to evoke Spy Kids, National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean, with a nod to today's headlines.

An exciting train climax comes along to rescue the silly affair, but, by then, the thrill is all but gone. In short, missing from The Legend of Zorro, which shares the same writers and producers as The Island, is both the legend and Zorro. The lightning fast masked avenger—played memorably in the past by Douglas Fairbanks and Guy Williams and created by Johnston McCulley—is practically a sideshow in a slow-moving circus.

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DVD Notes
While this version doesn't get any better on DVD, Sony's widescreen special edition of The Legend of Zorro adds a commentary from director Martin Campbell and the movie's cinematographer, several features, deleted scenes—with an alternate opening and ending that would have precluded using Catherine Zeta-Jones or Antonio Banderas in future sequels—and multi-angle scenes.

A piece on the picture's climactic train action is interesting primarily for technical reasons. With Campbell having directed the first movie, a breezy adventure starring Anthony Hopkins, the documentary material makes it easier to see that it was the sequel's writers who lacked an abiding respect for the legend—they think a wasted Zorro is hilarious—and, yes, that was supposed to be Abraham Lincoln at the end of the movie.

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