Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
Antonio Banderas … Don Alejandro de la Vega / Zorro
Catherine Zeta-Jones … Elena de la Vega
Rufus Sewell … Armand
Alberto Reyes … Brother Ignacio
Julio Oscar Mechoso … Frey Felipe
Gustavo Sánchez Parra … Guillermo Cortez
Adrian Alonso … Joaquin de la Vega
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Columbia Pictures Corporation
Tornado Productions Inc.
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|Distributor||Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures|
It’s 1850, California is on the brink of becoming part of the United States. Don Alejandro de la Vega (handsome and charming Antonio Banderas) has more than he can handle with his headstrong wife, Elena de la Vega (always beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones), pleading with him to spend more time at the villa with his 10 year old son, Joaquin de la Vega (spunky performance by Adrian Alonso), who thinks his Dad is just another one of those workaholic Dons who never spends any quality time at home. Then put on top of that, Don Alejandro is also secretly Zorro, fighting for justice and the lives of his people for the last ten years, and you’ve got a guy who’s under a heck of a lot of stress.
There is the smell of sinister in the air as Jacob McGivnes (a surly Nick Chinlund) in an attempt to keep California from being the 31st State, swoops in with his band of dastardly riders to steal the ballot boxes after the ballots have been sealed and the voting booths closed. But, never fear, Zorro is here!
In a thrilling scene akin to the opening shot in the original “Mask of Zorro” Alejandro (AKA Zorro) on his trusty steed Tornado, valiantly clears out the town square of all bad guys while the cheering crowd rallies him on. The ballot box is recaptured and delivered to it’s rightful place in the hands of the Governor of California, as hundreds of enraptured citizens shout their approval. Zorro has once again saved the day.
Now what champion for the people in his right mind would want to leave all this behind? Well, if Mrs. Zorro has her way, that’s exactly what will happen. Elena loves her swashbuckling husband passionately, but in a last desperate attempt to get him to hang up his mask and stay home to be the father he needs to be to their son, she demands he ignore the five bells signal the next time it beckons his aid for the people. She announces he needn’t return home again if he answers the call this time. His heart torn between his duty and compassion for his people, and the deep love for his family, Alejandro finds he must answer the call when the bells chime. Sadly, Elena is not there upon his return.
Meanwhile, back at the lair, we’ve got the dastardly Count Armand (an elegant, yet foreboding Rufus Sewell), cooking up a plot to make not just California under his diabolical control, but all of the United States—using a secret explosive more powerful than any human in those days could imagine.
The U.S. Government, stealthy as they are, knows something is brewing and needs help. It seems two top Pinkerton men (Shuler Hensley and Michael Emerson) while on Mr. McGiven’s trail, saw Zorro’s face unmasked during a fight and now use Elena, blackmailing her to become a spy and forcing her to submit divorce papers to Alejandro. The only way to get close to the shrewd Count Armand, is to have a beautiful, unattached woman find out his inner most secrets, and the irresistible Elena is the only woman for the job.
Joaquin, though being raised by his parents to be a boy groomed as an aristocrat, has all of his Mother’s spunk and all of his Father’s vigor. He has no idea his Father is the valiant Zorro. Alejandro and Elena swore from his birth they would keep this a secret from him in order to keep him safe. It is evident as the plot thickens, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The young and courageous Joaquin wields a sword, rides a horse and fights off the bad guys like a ten year old fighting machine.
The only one who knows the secret identity of Zorro, is the trusted friend and man of God, Frey Felipe (Oscar Mechoso). The Padre is proven the anchor and dedicated advocate, even indulging in hand to hand combat when needed, to keep Zorro’s identity a secret and to save his life.
While fighting to defend the helpless and fighting to reclaim his family, Alejandro finds out how far a villain will go to reach complete power, and how much his beloved Elena has given up for the same purpose: defense of those who cannot fight for themselves and the safety of the new United States. Even his son shows great courage in the face of evil. In the end, the real strength of Zorro is not in the one, but in the unfailing love, determination and valor of the three.
Some might complain about the PG rating, because it kept this potentially adult script from blooming into something more. Even so, there are many scenes of getting drunk, blood, peril, violence, people being shot, stabbed and blown to bits. These instances and minor spattering of “adult” language, cussing in Spanish, two scenes where the Alejandro character is naked in a bath and in his bedroom (although the audience doesn’t see him naked directly), and a couple of passionate kissing scenes between the Alejandro and Elena characters probably should have pushed the rating into PG-13.
The Mr. McGiven’s character is a walking religious crazy man with a cross branded on the side of his face and wooden teeth (Zorro was involved in the loss of his real teeth in a fight at the beginning of the film). He struts through the movie spouting what seem like Bible verses, quotes like “I send you out a sheep amongst wolves,” “It’s time for me to do The Lord’s work,” and finally calling his guns “Salvation and Damnation.”
The Zorro character used his sword to fight off, but never kill his foes. He uses his head and heart to guide him. And, I might add, God. Alejandro storms into the church full of agony over his loss and cries out, “What do You want from me?” which shows us he feels he is protecting the people in the name of God, a servant for God. Then he goes down on his knees and prays, as we all should when we are in pain and don’t know what to do, “Help me, I beg of You, give me the courage and the strength.” What a great example to a young audience, that the good guy doesn’t have to kill and maim to win a fight. Even Zorro states to his young son, “Fighting is not the answer to everything!.”
Viewers may complain about the issues of divorce, but we find Elena has given into blackmail only to save that which she loves dearly. She gave up herself to save her family. The divorce, in those days was complete when the papers were served. She was not married to Alejandro when she started her spying activities on The Count. It was proven she was never unfaithful to her husband, that she stayed home with her son and never let another man take the place of his Father. She kept her integrity and showed great courage and devotion, not only to her family, but to her country. In the end, they were remarried knowing all was done for the purpose of honor.
The young Joaquin is hurt by his parent’s actions towards one another. He is confused and his little heart is aching. This hurt manifests itself in anger. He shouts with tears in his eyes, “I don’t blame mom for divorcing you,” because he is hurt and bewildered. This is not a sign of disrespect, but rather a cry for help.
His Father finally tells him the truth and promises never to be dishonest with him again. With love the Father shows humbleness and grace, committing to involve himself directly in his child’s needs.
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44 NKJV)
Sometimes we enter into relationships that leave us burned. As a result we promise ourselves not to make this mistake again and even allow our hearts to get calloused like Alejandro tried to do. His wife left him, his son won’t speak to him, his people are in peril, and he can’t seem to stop the pain. God calls us to get past what people have done and remain open to relationships He has for our future.
Family living is something that is a blessing, and it takes courage, commitment and sacrifice. Just think about the good that God has accomplished in your family despite any shortcomings. Our kids, our spouses and just about anyone close to us can make us feel helpless, confused and ineffective. But God knows all about parenting and marriage. He designed family life. Talk to him about problems as Alejandro did in the church.
Ask God for his help in making the family the best it can be. The underlying principle in God’s method of teaching are spelled out in Deuteronomy 6—in it is every aspect of family life, from a husband and wife’s love for each other, to the handling of each child and the details of household decisions. As Zorro proclaimed after all is said and done, “My family is my life.”
“The Legend of Zorro” is exciting from the beginning when Zorro on his brilliant horse Tornado storm the courtyard through to the riveting runaway train scene. It is all pluck, Saturday matinee, legend stuff… but hey, it’s movie! It was pure, crazy, heart pounding entertainment… and that’s what we many go to see!
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor to moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor to moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.