He Said: Too much adds up to too little
You might think Zorro could have taken his sword and lopped some of the fat off his sequel.Of course, Zorro isn’t just about the sword: He’s also the man with the mask, the bullwhip, the superintelligent horse, the sharp tongue, the saucy warrior-wife, the mini-action hero son and a wise priest to advise him. As such, “The Legend of Zorro,” the sequel to 1998’s “Mask of Zorro,” isn’t just a straight-up action movie about the man with the mask – er, sword. It’s a fully overblown effort to make U.S. history cool and explain where its roots cross Mexico’s. It’s also a tempestuous romance, slapstick comedy, commentary on immigration and sequel that manages to run afoul of most action-movie clichés along the way.That’s a lot to stuff into the sequel of a relatively modest movie. I say “relatively,” because it did star Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Still, Banderas, at his best in original fare like “Once a Time in Mexico” – a homage to the stripped-down “El Mariachi” – and the out-of-nowhere first “Spy Kids,” would seem to have a lot to work with. Often, though, less is more.And more seems to add up to less in “The Legend of Zorro.” It makes me wonder if director Martin Campbell actually intended his 1998 movie for sequelization, since the title for the original probably would have been dead-on for this installment.Suffice it to say, this time the plot revolves around Don Alejandro de la Vega (Banderas) and his secret life as proto-superhero Zorro during California’s campaign for statehood in the mid-19th century. Of course, since only Alejandro’s wife (Zeta-Jones, who’s still half Welsh, half Irish, last I checked) and spiritual advisor (Julio Oscar Mechoso) know his identity, the mask comes into play, which probably explains why they were considering calling it “The Mask of Zorro 2.”There’s no shortage of what comes into play, actually. The role of Mexican-Americans in building the nation passes for a serious topic for “The Legend of Zorro.” Jacob McGivens (Nick Chinlund), one of those career “that guy” guys, sporting the most horrifying teeth this side of Austin Powers – or “Deliverance” – is the boogeyman. With his distinctive birthmark and views on ethnicity, nowadays he’d probably be a congressman from Rick Warren country. It being the 1850s, for “The Legend of Zorro,” he’s a bandit king doing “the lord’s work” of driving Mexicans from California.Chinlund makes McGivens’ xenophobia at least repellent enough to root against, and them choppers sure are real scary (even while making me strangely homesick for southwest Virginia). As such, he’s just one of the things Zorro has to solve with his sword – and bullwhip and mask and good looks et. al.All the intrigue and disparate elements that Zorro negotiates in trying to secure peace for his family and statehood for California might leave the impression that he’s a pretty sharp man with a sword – or at least a pretty man with a sharp sword. But there’s simply too much going on, and it adds up to a dull movie.
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