IT'S A GOOD THING Anthony Hopkins' Zorro didn't live long enough to see the sequel to his 1998 hit.
"The Legend of Zorro" doesn't have an original bone in its bloated body.
Targeting kids despite two archly brutal scenes, the picture splatters bits of James Bond and "Wild Wild West" with images ripped from "Back to the Future III" and "Cat Ballou."
Even "National Treasure" gets a nod.
Like the stellar "Mask of Zorro," "Legend" features robust swordplay, exciting escapes and other derring-do,
as well as passionate Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the feuding, French-kissing leads.
Unlike "Mask," though, "Legend" smacks you with embarrassing slapstick, a mugging 10-year-old son of Zorro (played by Adrian Alonso), and a funny horse whose shtick seems better suited to Herbie the Volkswagen.
In other words, you expect Indiana Jones and you get Lilo and Stitch.
The story is set in 1850, a decade after the original. Banderas and Zeta-Jones reprise their
roles as Don Alejandro and Elena de la Vega, aka Zorro and Mrs. Zorro.
Interfering with their happily-ever-after are unctuous Count Armand (Rufus Sewell with a bad French accent) and his band of sooty henchmen evidently, everybody bathes but the bad guys.
For reasons not made clear until mid-slog, the ruthless crew plans to prevent California from becoming the 31st state.
Alejandro wants to ride to the rescue but Elena tells him to stay home and be a proper family man like he promised.
I yam what I yam, he says, taking a page from Popeye. So Elena boots him out and files for divorce, and Alejandro drowns his sorrow in booze.
"The Alcoholism of Zorro" might have made a better title but it probably wouldn't have played well with the kids.
After Elena starts dating the slippery count for reasons pegged to a mystery whose explanation would only bog you down Alejandro sobers up and Zorro rides again.
Directed by Martin Campbell, the film starts as a lighthearted
romp where people shoot and thrust but nobody gets killed. OK, you think, they're ignoring the drama of the original and playing the sequel solely for laughs. Fair enough.
Then a kind, loving secondary character winds up with a big, bloody hole in his chest while his baby lies in a burning barn surrounded by fire that seems inches from his body.
Pleasant dreams, kids.
Zorro saves the day but not before you're wondering what kind of fat bamboozle you wandered into this time.
You can e-mail Barry Caine at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (925) 416-4806.