The Legend Of Zorro US Theatrical Release: October 28, 2005 US DVD Release: January 31, 2006 Running Time: 2:10:38 (28 chapter stops) Rating: PG (For Sequences of Violence/ Peril and Action, Language and a Couple of Suggestive Moments) Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic) Audio: English DD5.1, French DD2.0 (Extra Features: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French (Extra Features: None) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Background and transitional animation (it can't be skipped, but it's short). Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert has cover art for other Sony Pictures titles on one side and a Legend of Zorro poster image on the other. MSRP: $28.95 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3/5 With the crack of a whip and the slash of a saber, Antonio "Too Sexy" Banderas returns as Zorro, protector of California's oppressed in the mid-19th Century. Catherine Zeta-Jones is once again at his side as the tough and saucy Elena, but this time there's a junior partner -- their mischievous young son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). Together they swashbuckle and wisecrack their way through a truly bizarre adventure in The Legend Of Zorro The year is -- well, let's get into that later -- and (bear with me here) the people of California are voting on whether to join the United States as the 31st state. They are very excited about gaining their freedom (from Mexico, I suppose, although by this time Mexico wasn't exactly in charge of those parts), but nefarious elements oppose the idea. Jacob McGivens (Nick Chinlund), a cruel, bigoted gunman with a cross-shaped scar on his cheek and a habit of babbling about doing "the Lord's work," tries to steal the ballots before they can be delivered to the Governor. Fortunately, the masked man in black is there to foil him and take charge of the ballot box himself. Although the people love Zorro, his own wife is getting fed up with his constant crimefighting, which doesn't leave much time for his family. He can't bring himself to give it up, though, and before long, Elena serves him with divorce papers. Neither of these two incredibly strong-willed figures is ready to back down, and they part ways. Somewhat grim subject matter for this sort of movie, but perhaps there's more here than meets the eye. A few months pass, and Zorro's alter ego, Alejandro de la Vega, attends a party thrown by a newly arrived French Count, Armand (Rufus Sewell). Alejandro is shocked to discover Elena on the Count's arm. A few drinks later, Alejandro is embarrassing himself in a jealous rage in front of hundreds of guests. This new rival for Elena's affections promises to be a formidable opponent for Alejandro -- and, perhaps, a dangerous antagonist for Zorro as well. To talk much more about the somewhat convoluted plot would give away too much. Suffice it to say that it involves nitroglycerine, the Confederate Army, many more swords than guns, and a supervillain (complete with evil secret society) who could have come straight from a James Bond thriller. Even President Abraham Lincoln makes an appearance. Which takes us back to California's vote for statehood. The film gets that date right ?1850. But it kicks right into playing-with-history mode with the people's vote. Actually, it was the US Congress that voted to admit California to the Union as part of the Compromise of 1850, not the citizens of the state (although they had voted on a state constitution a year or so earlier). Anyone with a passing knowledge of history can have a blast playing spot-the-anachronism -- although nitroglycerine existed then (of course, it had been around for a couple of years, while the film makes it out to be a brand-new invention), there were certainly no Confederates. And no Henry Repeating Rifles yet, either (perhaps Zorro isn't afraid of McGivens because his weapon won't be invented for a few more years and therefore doesn't actually exist). And Abe Lincoln in office? In 1850? Don't think so. So the plot is completely wacky. But this isn't the sort of film that people are watching for the story. It's the action that makes or breaks movies like this, and on that level, The Legend Of Zorro really delivers. It's chock full of swordplay and fisticuffs, staged with wonderful fight choreography and plenty of clever stunt work. The action scenes show some variety, with such twists as a classroom ruler fight and an especially rough one-on-one polo match. The spectacular climax involves an out-of-control locomotive pulling a train loaded with explosives -- can't get much more climactic than that. The proceedings are also peppered with witty one-liners that mostly work pretty well. In addition to Zorro, Elena, a helpful priest (Julio Oscar Mechoso), and even little Joaquin do their share of skull-busting too. The top-drawer fight choreography lets them participate in the fighting without acting beyond their abilities ?Elena isn't overpowering anyone, and the boy relies mainly on his wit and his slingshot rather than going head-to-head with adults. In general, in fact, Joaquin manages to be funny and clever rather than annoying, which is always a great relief when a child character is forced into an action film like this. (What's even more amazing is that young Adrian Alonso did not speak English at the start of filming ?he learned his lines phonetically and picked up a bit of the language during the production!) On the subject of action, it should be noted that this is a very violent film. While most of the action is relatively cartoonish and bloodless, there are a number of on-screen deaths that render it inappropriate for small children. (That this picture scored a PG while Oliver Twist, which isn't remotely as violent, was slapped with a PG-13 is just the latest episode in a very long tradition of inexplicable MPAA ratings board decisions.) Despite the official rating explanation, however, there really isn't any foul language or sexual content at all. THE WAY I SEE IT: 3.5/5 The image is just a bit soft, with OK detail. On the other hand, colors are rich and beautiful, with solid, deep blacks. Much of the film sports a yellow tone, which gives it the atmosphere of a western desert. A small amount of digital artifacts can be seen, but, all things considered, not too much. As with most recent Sony releases, occasional edge enhancement is visible, but much less than used to be common with Sony's titles. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4.5/5 The soundtrack is chock full of effects and thrilling music, with near-constant surround channel activity. The only knock on the audio is that the LFE should probably have been kicked up just a notch. There are a lot of loud noises in the film, including some huge explosions, and they don't have quite the house-shaking power that would have put them over the top. THE SWAG: 3.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Commentary with Director Martin Campbell and Director of Photography Phil Meheux A very solid, interesting track. They mainly discuss the nuts and bolts of the production, with almost no fluff and hardly any dead space. Featurettes Four featurettes are included. They may be played separately or via a Play All button. They are all very informative, with comments from lots of members of the cast and crew, and include plenty of cool behind-the-scenes footage. They aren't anamorphic, but are otherwise outstanding. Stunts (9:21) A discussion of the stunt work, with details of a few of the big stunts and some of the action that the stars participated in themselves. Playing With Trains (12:25) One of the best featurettes of its type that I've seen in a very long time. All about the climactic sequence aboard a speeding train, which involved both model work and an actual antique steam engine. Plus some fiery explosions for good measure. Armand’s Party (12:02) 500 Mexican extras, most of whom don't speak English, go through hair and makeup, then bring an elaborate party sequence to life. Visual Effects (5:49) A demonstration of a number of the bluescreen and CGI effects. Deleted Scenes Three deleted scenes, plus an alternate opening and ending, are available with or without commentary from the director and DP. They are fairly interesting, as deleted scenes go. (Especially the one where Alejandro tells Joaquin about that wonderful new invention, "moving pictures." Say what?!?!?! Yes, "magic lantern" shows were certainly around then, but not really the way Alejandro describes them. Par for the anachronistic course for The Legend Of Zorro!) All together, they run about 10:30. Multi-Angle This interesting feature shows scenes from the finished film in split screen with corresponding rehearsal and behind-the scenes footage. Each of the three views can also be seen independently by using the Angle button on your remote. Two sequences are included: Armand's Party (2:38) and Winery Fight (0:54). A clever use of multi-angle. Trailers Seven trailers are included. The trailers for Open Season, The Pink Panther and Memoirs Of A Geisha play automatically when the disc is inserted. They may be skipped. Open Season (1:34) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) Monster House (1:53) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) The Pink Panther (2006) (1:38) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) Memoirs Of A Geisha (2:34) (DD5.1; ~2.0:1 anamorphic) Sueño (2:20) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) The Gospel (1:47) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic) The Mask Of Zorro (3:13) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 3/5 The Way I See It: 3.5/5 The Way I Hear It: 4.5/5 The Swag: 3.5/5 The Legend Of Zorro is the very definition of a big, dumb, fun popcorn flick. The filmmakers took all sorts of liberties with history, but worked extremely hard to bring high-quality action and humor to the screen. And their efforts didn't end there, as the DVD features a nice image and excellent sound as well as hours of special features that are absolutely worth watching. It didn't do huge business or impress many critics during its theatrical run, but this latest Zorro story should find a new life on DVD as people discover what good, escapist fun it offers.