Monday, March 27, 2006

Movie Review: The Legend of Zorro

In this sequel to The Mask of Zorro, it is 1850 and California is voting to become part of the United States. Of course, it is just before the Civil War and if California joins as a Free State, the delicate balance between the Free States and Slave States will be upset.

Don Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Banderas) is a quiet, intellectual, almost effete nobleman. But when the bells of the mission toll five times, he becomes Zorro, the fox, who rides to the rescue on his horse, Tornado, fighting injustice and ensuring the security of the common folk who love him.

Dona Elena de la Vega (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is Don Antonio's wife, who is not very happy when her husband becomes Zorro. In fact, they have a huge fight because Don Alejandro is not quite ready to hang up Zorro's sword.

They have a son, a precocious boy named Joaquin, who idolizes Zorro and doesn't think much of his father.

Amidst this family drama, evil men plot to hijack the vote, preventing California from joining the Union and ultimately destroying the United States.

Banderas and Zeta-Jones have terrific chemistry together. Their dialogue, especially, has some witty one-liners and rejoinders, along with the tension that comes with any marriage. The horse that plays Tornado is a scene-stealer, especially one that pays homage to Lee Marvin and his horse in Cat Ballou (Marvin won an Oscar for his performance and noted that the credit really belonged to the horse). The young actor who plays Joaquin is perfect--not too smarmy, not too precocious. The fact that he speaks Spanish is a plus.

My major complaint with the movie is the lousy job they did with California history. I mean, how difficult can it be to realize there wasn't any Confederacy in 1850? Or that the capital of California was in Monterey, not San Mateo? (I suppose I should be happy that the writers didn't make the capital Sacramento.)

However, this is strictly a fun movie: lots of great fights and swordplay, lots of gymnastics, Zeta-Jones wearing elaborate gowns with plenty of decolletage and her hair long. Not quite as cartoonish as the Disney version, which I grew up with, but a bit more exciting.

Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours at home on a rainy afternoon.

On the March Hare scale: 4 out 5 Golden Tickets (for the type of movie it is).