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The Legend of Zorro

By David DiCerto
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Seven years after first donning the black mask and cape, Antonio Banderas once again rides to the rescue in "The Legend of Zorro" (Columbia), the rip-roaringly fun sequel to his 1998 adventure, "The Mask of Zorro."

Picking up the story 10 years after the first film, "Legend," set in 1850, finds the aristocratic Alejandro de la Vega (Banderas) -- aka Zorro -- fighting a different sort of battle: domestic discord.

Now a husband and father, Alejandro craves a more normal life, but can't quite kick the crime-fighting habit. His wife, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), wants him to hang up his bullwhip and stop being an absentee dad to their young son (Adrian Alonso), leaving our dashing hero torn between family responsibility and his destiny as the cloaked defender of Old California's oppressed and downtrodden.

If this all sounds a bit heavy for a Zorro flick, don't worry; the marital strife story line doesn't get in the way of what the movie is really about: derring-do swordplay. And there is plenty of it, as Zorro must foil the sinister plot of a secret Masonic-like fraternity to sabotage California's bid for statehood and disrupt the union by jump-starting the Civil War.

Rounding out the cast are Rufus Sewell as haughty French blueblood Armand, the film's villain, who makes the moves on Elena after she and Alejandro temporarily separate; Nick Chinlund as Jacob McGivens, Armand's dastardly henchman; and Julio Oscar Mechoso as feisty Fray Felipe, Zorro's loyal confessor.

Directed as before by Martin Campbell, "Legend" lacks the freshness of the original and the plot is rapier thin, but as popcorn fare goes it deserves to be rated "Z" for zestfully entertaining.

The swashbuckling stunt pieces are more spectacular this time around; they include a bravura opening sequence and a thrilling -- if admittedly ridiculous -- climax aboard a runaway train. As to the violence, though modern moviemaking allows for heightened intensity, the highflying action has the throwback feel of old-time serials and the silent films of Douglas Fairbanks (Hollywood's original Zorro).

"Good" and "evil" are clearly defined, and Zorro's populist predispositions put him on the side of the poor and the powerless.

As in "Mask," what makes the sequel work is the spirited chemistry between Banderas and Zeta-Jones, whose verbal fencing skills have remained saber-sharp.

Campbell does a good job balancing action, romance and lighthearted comedy, which should appeal to an audience as broad as the brim on Zorro's caballero hat. Phil Meheux's lustrous cinematography injects a nostalgic touch of Old Hollywood glamour, as does James Horner's billowy score.

If "Legend" does anywhere near as well as "Mask," you can bet the hacienda that this ride won't be Zorro's last.

The film contains much stylized violence, peril, some mildly crude expressions and sexual innuendo. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.

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DiCerto is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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