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"The Legend of Zorro"

Directed by Martin Campbell.
Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
Starring Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Rufus Sewell.
Release Year:  2005
Review Date:  11/20/05


Much like its predecessor, "The Mask of Zorro", the new sequel "The Legend of Zorro" goes out of its way to provide dashing PG adventure for the whole family.  As inoffensive as films can be, "Legend" does just enough to be interesting as long as you come in with very low expectations.

Our man Alejandro, aka Zorro (Antonio Banderas), is still fighting off the occasional bad guys while living with his wife Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and his son (Adrian Alonso) somewhere in California in the 1850s.  After saving a plot that nearly destroys the state's chances of joining the Union (all of the political threads in "Legend" seemed a bit sketchy), Zorro tells the wife that he's done with all that save-the-world bullshit...until he's called yet again to save the people, which leads Elena to try and divorce the man.  She leaves Zorro only to link up with a mysterious Spanish count (Rufus Sewell) who is naturally not what he seems...and this leads Zorro out of a long drinking binge and back into action to save his marriage and the fate of not only California, but the fucking free world.

Hey, I'll give director Martin Campbell (the original "Zorro", as well as "Goldeneye") credit--if harmless action, light humor, exotic settings and a glazed-over stereotypical Mexican restaurant soundtrack are what you are looking for, "The Legend of Zorro" fits like a glove.  Nary a curse word is heard during the film's long 130-minute running time; there's no blood, swordfights that end with no one ever being killed, there's no sex--heck, there isn't even sexual innuendo or double entendres in this thing.  It's a great family film.  As such, the actions of the characters and the filmmaking that supports this is quite bland and occasionally too long; reaction shots make sure we get just how everyone is feeling at a given time.  The bad guys have "Pirates of the Caribbean"-style bad teeth; only one decent person dies, and if you've seen even a couple of movies before you know who it's going to be the scene before he gets it.  The stuntwork feels like one of those stunt exhibitions they put on at theme parks like Universal Studios; Campbell doesn't even attempt to hide the fact that stunt doubles were used extensively for Banderas and Zeta-Jones, the stunts are so ridiculous at times (as are the facial discrepancies in relation to the stars the doubles portray).

Even our bad guy, played by Sewell, seems like a relatively harmless guy until you take into account that he is bent on world domination; he dines well, dresses fancy, seems to have a somewhat-genuine interest in Elena.  And you know he's going to get it, in a ridiculous Bond bad guy death sequence, where he dies in grand fashion.  All of this is meant to say that as a film that is big-budget Hollywood popcorn, "The Legend of Zorro" is decent.  I am writing this a few hours post-viewing to make sure that I don't forget any of the details, because even now, it's all flying from memory quick-like.  Banderas gives effort like nobody else in the business, even when he knows that this is as far as possible from "Citizen Kane" quality; Zeta-Jones will always be fun to watch.  Even the kid, played by Alonso, has a couple of good lines and stunt work that make you believe he might be able to pull off the next bad kid role in a "Spy Kids" film.  And, I did laugh out loud when we get the close-up of the horse's eyes as he realizes that railway tunnel is approaching a little too fast.

Not bad.  I'll never see it again, but at least I didn't feel like shit for blowing money on this as a matinee showing.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09