'Zorro' slashes authenticity

'Zorro' slashes authenticity

By Dirt wire | Thursday October 27, 2005

Come with us now, back to Old California, circa 1850.

It's a magical place where the recently conquered Latino population can't wait for statehood, Catholics get divorced with a simple legal document, the Confederacy is up and running a decade early, everyone's apparently read "The Da Vinci Code," weapons of mass destruction threaten all life in North America, and buzz phrases such as "You're overreacting" and "C'mon, you want a piece of me?" are in common use.

"The Legend of Zorro"

129 min // Rated PG

Now playing: UA Village 4, Boulder; Colony Square 12, Louisville

59 percent

I don't know how much of what's portrayed in "The Legend of Zorro" has any basis in fact. But it all feels like pure Hollywood fiction. This overproduced, sporadically entertaining sequel to "The Mask of Zorro" strives so hard to relate to contemporary audiences that it loses all sense of itself as a period piece.

In his 86 years of fictional existence, Johnston McCulley's masked swordsman has never been a model of historical accuracy. But taking the modern references too far, as "Legend" does, has the effect of always reminding us that we're watching a movie. Neither the story nor the action ever sweeps us into its own created world.

Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones return as Don Alejandro de la Vega and his wife, Elena. She wants him to give up his secret Zorro existence and spend more time with her and their 10-year-old son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). But he needs to protect California from those who would hijack the statehood election - or worse. That easy Catholic divorce ensues.

Three months later, Alejandro is a drunken mess, and Elena is dating Armand (Rufus Sewell), a snooty French aristocrat who's taken over a gigantic wine estate. Alejandro's rival is up to no good - or at least our dissolute Zorro wants to believe that - and Elena is cooking up something more than romantic betrayal, too.

Directed, like "Mask," by Britain's Martin Campbell, "Legend" just isn't as tight, nor as original as the first film. Garish cliches abound, such as Nick Chinlund's evil, racist enforcer McGivens, with his wooden teeth and crucifix-scarred cheek. That said, maybe it's best that "Legend's" two credited writing teams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("The Island" and TV's "Alias") and Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio ("Shrek"), didn't always go for original concepts.

The movie's Byzantine, "Wild Wild West"-like plot involves a deadly cache of ... soap.


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