Action-packed ‘Legend of Zorro’ Slices Through Box Office Expectations

The year is 1850, and things are looking up for California, though the nation is nearing civil war. Hundreds of citizens are gathered in town to cast their vote for statehood.

Things seem to be going well until the scar-faced, gun-wielding villain Jacob McGivens rides in to steal the box of victory votes and prevents them from reaching the governor.

Enter that ruggedly handsome swashbuckler with a nose for impeccable timing: the legendary Zorro.

As usual, Zorro narrowly escapes harm, saves the day and returns home _” only this time to his beautiful wife, Elena de la Vega, and 10-year-old son, Joaquin.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is where the morning after “happily ever after” begins. All is not perfect in paradise.

In fact, Zorro, or as he is known to the public, Don Alejandro de la Vega, has to deal with his own family problems on top of saving his fellow Californians as a politician and as the masked swordsman. Little Joaquin is suffering from his father’s constant absence and is constantly challenging his elders’ authority. Elena threatens to leave him if he won’t give up his mask for his family’s and his safety’s sake.

As if that weren’t enough to trouble him, an aristocratic French newcomer, hacienda and vineyard owner, Armand, seems to be up to more than just promoting California’s entrance into the Union. Even Elena, unbeknownst to Alejandro, has a secret she’s been hiding.

Academy Award winner Catherine Zeta-Jones (Elena) and Golden Globe nominee Antonio Banderas (Zorro) woo the audience and each other again with the help of director Martin Campbell in their original roles.

They bring along with them the talented “love to hate them” actors Nicholas Chinlund (Eraser, Training Day) as the evil vigilante Jacob McGivens and Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale, Bless the Child) as the pompous and scheming Armand. The adorable Adrian Alonso also holds his own among the star-studded (and much older) cast as Joaquin de la Vega.

More than just a get-rich-quick plan to rake in devoted fans of the 1998 blockbuster, this movie actually has substance.

Sure, it delivers the usual dose of crowd-pleasing stunts and swordfights, along with a few cheesy and predictable one-liners, but it also focuses on real-life issues, such as divorce, familial relations, parenthood, racism, class prejudice and political and economic strife.

The film also braves the portrayal of a less traditional role for the “damsel.” Zeta-Jones not only utilizes the power of her feminine mystique to help her husband, but kicks butt in her fair share of solo hand-to-hand combat as well _” all the while wearing a corset.

Legend of Zorro performs a successful juggling act between multiple plots, internal and external conflicts, character development and rekindling romance. As a family-oriented and romantic action flick, it serves its purpose of providing quick laughs, while entertaining the other half of the audience that enjoys a little matter along with the mirth.

Not bad, for a sequel. It is, how do you say? Ah, yes, very sexy.