Movie Review by Toby White
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Rufus Sewell, Nick Chinlund
Director: Martin Campbell
There’s nothing like having your expectations exceeded. Honestly, going into THE LEGEND OF ZORRO to say I had my reservations in an understatement. Dragged through the auditorium door, wincing at the cliched-laden opening titles (created with fire effects – I mean, come on!), cringing that the opening shots of a market square in California were so textbook, it was all I could do to stop myself leaving when the villain appeared and shot soldiers’ hats off (why didn’t the bullets hit the innocents behind them?)… Then Banderas made his entrance. And suddenly I started taking notice. Okay, so the opening action set piece was mandatory but it was the execution of it that had its little surprises. Enough to keep me watching anyway. A little chuckle as Zeta-Jones made her entrance like a 40s screen siren before a really well executed dynamic between husband and wife as she asserts he should choose between Zorro and family. I know, it sounds corny, but it worked. Besides, it’s for children. So I stayed.
Basically, in LEGEND… Zorro’s now married to Elena and they have a ten year-old son. Upset with his continuing decision to place his duty as the masked vigilante before her and the little one, she files for divorce. While all this is going on, California is seeking inclusion in the Union and there are villains all over the place conjuring nefarious plans to either exploit this or doing their damndest to stop it happening. No wonder Zorro’s torn between family and country. Add a French count (Sewell) who seems to offer Elena everything she wants and our hero has to add cuckoldry and winning his wife back to his list of problems. Oh, and the Count also turns out to be the bad guy with the nefarious political plans. Not a bad plot outline for a popcorn movie.
Perhaps even too complicated? Well, it does flag towards the middle with a little too much deliberation to iron out the love tryst issue but the chemistry between Banderas and Zeta-Jones is captivating. Similarly, getting to the heart of the political machinations of the evil Count takes its time too but, between each dose of exposition on that note, there are some lovely little flourishes from Zorro’s son and the intrigue involving two mysterious figures who know of Zorro’s identity, one certainly won’t be bored.
At a shade over two hours it’s a tad long (certainly for the smaller members of the audience) and, save a couple of corny moments we could do without (please, please, please cut the scene where Banderas appeals to the Virgin Mary for “one last ride”, that’s just too heavy), all told, this is a thoroughly enjoyable romp.