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Friday, October 28, 2005

'Zorro' sequel has some fun with its fiery stars -- but the script is absurd

By WILLIAM ARNOLD
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER MOVIE CRITIC

Seven years ago, "The Mask of Zorro" was a surprise box office and critical hit that reinvented the historical swashbuckler, gave Anthony Hopkins arguably his last great lead and made an instant star out of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Everything about it seemed to work.

  MOVIE REVIEW
 

THE LEGEND OF ZORRO

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell

CAST: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rufus Sewell

RUNNING TIME: 126 minutes

RATING: PG for sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments

WHERE: Alderwood 16, Cinema 17, Columbia City, East Valley 13, Edmonds, Everett 9, Factoria, Gateway Movies 8, Issaquah 9, Kirkland Parkplace 6, Longston Place 14, Marysville Cinema 14, Meridian 16, Metro, Monroe 12, Mountlake 9, Oak Tree, Parkway Plaza 12, Redmond Town Center, Woodinville 12

GRADE: C+

LINKS/TRAILERS
· Official site
· high.html
· low.html
· medium.html

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But, alas, even with the same director and most of the same cast, "The Legend of Zorro" fails to make lightning strike twice. Despite some fun moments and a reasonably good showing by the stars, it comes off as one more contrived Hollywood sequel.

Set in 1850 (10 years after its predecessor), as California is about to become a state, the script finds Don Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Banderas), at the urging of his wife, Elena (Zeta-Jones), finally about to hang up his mask and sword and retire the Zorro identity.

But when a mysterious French aristocrat (Rufus Sewell) buys a neighboring vineyard and Elena even more mysteriously divorces Don Alejandro so she can take up with him, Zorro has to win back his wife, heal his family and foil a plot to take over the world.

As it unfolds, the movie's bright spots are director Martin Campbell's inspired opening action sequence, a fairly sumptuous re-creation of Old California and the two stars, who are individually appealing and together convey all the fire of a bickering married couple.

But the script -- which rips off "The Da Vinci Code," hinges on a quickie-divorce in a 19th-century Catholic family and is so historically absurd that its characters talk about "the Confederate States" 10 years before the Civil War -- is just dumb beyond words.

To replace Hopkins and to give the movie kid appeal, Zorro's 10-year-old son (Adrian Alonso) is made a major character, and he's a mixed blessing: cute, but hardly worth all the time he's given, and at a loss to carry even a fraction of the weight Hopkins brought to the table.

The movie is full of action and stunts, but after the gangbusters opening, it loses steam and imagination very quickly. With a two-hour-plus running time, it gradually becomes tedious and repetitive, and its torturously drawn-out and overblown climax is a complete snoozer.

P-I movie critic William Arnold can be reached at 206-448-8185 or williamarnold@seattlepi.com.
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