When there’s no more ass to kick in Mexico, Zorro will go back to Spain and kick ass there! Or to Lusitania to be exact, where a Grand Duke has died, a Grand Duchess is under duress to abdicate in favor of her power mad brother-in-law and where the brother-in-law’s henchman has eyes for Zorro’s cousin/girlfriend Bianca. And you thought Lusitania was just some boat that got sunk, not Peyton Place!
But this is so much better than some Titanic or The Poseidon Adventure situation! Zorro carves a “Z” on a dude’s face not once, but two separate times! And in his civilian identity as the vacuous blonde rich douche Ricardo, Zorro makes snide comments about the marks both times when he sees the guy after he’s changed out of his Zorro gear! That is of course when Ricardo isn’t pretending to be woken up by all the Zorro action or accommodating the bad guys much to the chagrin of his father and Bianca.
Obviously, legendary Italian swashbuckler director Luigi Capuano (Terror of the Red Mask, Tiger of the Seven Seas) knows he has to deliver exactly three things in a Zorro film: Zorro jumping here and there, swinging his sword at fat guys in soldier outfits; Zorro pretending to be a pansy boy in his down time; and Zorro’s loved ones barely able to stop themselves from disowning him for his wimpiness while constantly talking up what an awesome hero stud this new guy Zorro is.
And Luigi handles all three requirements with aplomb, right down to the simperingly formal way Ricardo talks to his new (and quite sad) bride on their wedding night when he knows he isn’t getting any because she’s fixated on Zorro’s heroics and Ricardo’s pussiness. I also admired how committed Ricardo was to his Zorro character and didn’t reveal himself to her even when he knew it was costing him some super sweet cousin loving that night!
Making mutant Zorro babies with his cousin can wait though because there is a freaking kingdom, duchy, shire or whatever to save! But he’s going to have to go through his evil step-mother to do so! What?!? Evil stepmother? How did Zorro turn into Cinderella?
Well in the small world that apparently is Lusitania, his step mom is also the sister of the Grand Duchess’s brother-in-law’s henchman, Miguel! I know! It’s all so confusing I don’t even blame Zorro for using his sword to carve a “Z” in his cousin’s pooter because he probably lost track of just how closely he was related to her!
The film plays out as you would expect, with a series of evil schemes Zorro foils that involves decent action (you can’t complain about the effort that George Ardisson as Zorro puts forth as he whips his sword all over the place, swings on chandeliers and pops wheelies with his horse whenever it’s most dramatic to do so) interspersed with the bad guys complaining about Zorro and coming up with their next plan all the while Ricardo is pretending to sleep in a chair in the same room. (I like how they worried about whether he might have heard them, but then decided he was fast asleep and never once questioned just what in the hell Ricardo was doing sleeping in the bad guy’s house in the first place!)
While the Zorro antics are easily up to par in this film, the standard issue villains put a damper on things and never failed to make me as drowsy as Zorro after a tough night of raiding castles whenever they were on screen babbling about their latest failure. The guy after the throne wasn’t really much of a schemer and generally left the details to Miguel.
And Miguel’s big idea (when he wasn’t having Zorro thwart an execution and rescuing Bianca from his ill-advised kidnapping attempt) was to hold the Grand Duchess’ daughter hostage until she gave up her claim as ruler in favor of her brother-in-law. I wasn’t sure why anyone else in the country would support a guy that lame, especially when he openly announced this was the plan to everyone at the ceremony where the Grand Duchess was supposed to abdicate. These were such petty, unimaginative villains, you didn’t hate them so much as found their hamfisted political maneuvering to be tiresome.
It isn’t only the boring bad guys who hamper the film though. The story can be as lazy as Ricardo pretended to be, whether it be the silly ways Zorro learned of the villain’s plans, that his stepmother notices a tiny detail in a painting and instantly deduces that it must mean that Ricardo is Zorro, or the utterly pointless subplot of Miguel wanting to steal Zorro’s girlfriend in the middle of all this.
And while we have to suffer through all that nonsense, Zorro’s awesome sidekick Paquito doesn’t get nearly the screen time he deserves. With his constant wooing of the sexy servant girl while talking about his “Mexican necklace” (a bunch of knives stuffed in his belt), he was easily the best part of the film outside of Zorro.
Not a terrible effort, the action saving the film from itself, but with Zorro in Capuano’s usually capable hands, I was disappointed that it only felt like it carved a “C-” on my ass instead of the “Z” I was hoping for.
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