The Legend of Zorro is as perfect as a sequel can possibly be. Well-balanced in action and humor, it brought back everything I loved about the first one in spades. Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones return to their characters in top form, with a storyline that maintains the screw-tightening suspense that a good cliffhanger should offer. Visually, the film is beautiful. The producers revisited the Mexican locales where Mask of Zorro was shot, giving its successor a fresh and vibrant palette of continuity. The stunt and action sequences are framed with thrilling cinematography that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time. Finally, James Horner's phenomenal score kept the fire burning, and left me on an adrenaline high as the closing credits rolled. Zorro rides again!
Men in Black II is a fantastic, funny, and whimsical ride that is definitely on-par with the original, but probably will not be as fondly remembered, simply due to nostalgia factor. It's good to see Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones together again, though the filmmakers could have reunited them sooner in the movie. MIB II maintains its momentum with a blend of clever jokes and eye-popping effects, balanced with some nice, sentimental moments.
Much of the original cast has returned, but Linda Fiorentino's Dr. Laurel Weaver is sorely missed. Her absence is more than remedied, however, by the presence of NewsRadio's Patrick Warburton, who is as laugh-out-loud funny here as he is playing Johnny Johnson. (also back from the original film, albeit in a different role, is David Cross, another NewsRadio alumni) Rounding out the ensemble is Frank, the talking pug, MIB Chief Zed, Jeebs, and the sarcastic worm guys. The villain this time around is Serleena, an intergalactic Medusa-like alien, bent on destroying the world.
One cannot watch this delightful romp through New York City without thinking of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed during the filming of the movie. Director Barry Sonnenfeld opted not to digitally alter the film in the aftermath of the tragedy, and I'm sure the absence of the towers will be felt by all who see it. I couldn't help but think of the scene in the original film where Will Smith's character is quietly contemplating his life before joining the Men in Black, while watching the sun set between the towers.
All things considered, Men in Black II is a sequel that fans should thoroughly enjoy, while eagerly hoping for another installment. My only qualm is the song "Nod Ya Head." which will never be as catchy as Will Smith's "Men in Black."