Great stunts, glamorous stars, and our affection for the characters make this sequel watchable, even with a disappointing script.
The original was pure popcorn pleasure, with Anthony Hopkins as the original Zorro, the dashing masked swashbuckler who appeared wherever justice was threatened to right wrongs and of course leave the “Z.” He trained impetuous but talented Alejandro (Antonio Banderas) to take over, and soon after, the new Zorro 2.0 was leaping from roofs, showing his mastery of swordsmanship, riding the black horse Tornado, and winning the heart of the beautiful and courageous Elena (Catherine Zeta Jones). When we last saw them, they were married and had a baby.
Now their son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso) is 10 and feels that he barely knows his father. Elena thinks it is time for Zorro to hang up his mask.
But Alejandro is not ready to quit. “People still need Zorro,” he says. “No, you still need Zorro,” Elena replies. Elena files for divorce and soon renews acquaintance with a handsome and wealthy old friend from Spain, Armand (Rufus Sewell).
This sets up a series of estrangments and misunderstandings that play out predictably. It’s layered like a casserole — miscommunication/stunt/more miscommunication/more stunts. Banderas and Zeta Jones can do it all — they have authentic movie-star charisma, sizzling chemistry, top-notch acting chops and, rarest of all, a combination of total commitment to the moment and to-the-nanosecond comic timing. But the script doesn’t do them justice. It is geared for a younger audience than the original, with “comic” anachronisms like the line, “in your butt.” The stars do their best, but it’s not really a story. It’s just just pretty people, exciting action sequences with swashbuckling attitude but no real energy, and an over-the-top bad guy who falls head first into cactus. The stars may be dazzling, but the film works too hard to persuade us that we’re being entertained without taking the time to do very much that’s genuinely entertaining.
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of very intense “action” violence — it is not gory, but characters are injured and killed (including an unarmed young father) and some of it is graphic for a PG movie. A crotch hit is played for comedy. There is brief crude humor, a brief but very passionate kiss, and implied non-sexual nudity. Characters drink and smoke. Some in the audience may be upset by the couple’s estrangement and divorce and the difficulty that creates for their son. And some families may be concerned about the implication that it is natural for divorced parents to reconcile. A strength of the movie is its acknowledgement of some of the racism of the era.
Families who see this movie should talk about why it was hard for the members of this family to be honest with each other and to trust each other. They may also want to find out more about California statehood and the history of their own state and the decision to become part of the US.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The Mask of Zorro, with Banderas, Zeta Jones, and Anthony Hopkins. They will also enjoy some of the more than 50 other Zorro movies, from Tyrone Power’s The Mark of Zorro (with a thrilling score by Alfred Newman) and Disney’s The Sign of Zorro with Guy Williams to the campy Zorro, the Gay Blade with George Hamilton. They will also enjoy The Adventures of Robin Hood and Raiders of the Lost Ark.