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Friday, October 28, 2005

'The Legend of Zorro'
Mindless swordplay
Good-natured 'The Legend of Zorro' takes a stab at history -- and misses

By James Ward
Visalia (Calif.) Times-Delta

Goofy, but fun. That about sums up "The Legend of Zorro," a swashbuckling two-hour-plus romp of a movie that doesn't have a single smart thought in its pretty little head.

But because the film is so good-natured, features appealing performances and bounces along at a rapid pace, it doesn't matter that the film's plot is utter nonsense and contains awful historical inaccuracies.

Just to clear up the record: Abraham Lincoln wasn't in California in 1850 to witness the state becoming part of the Union. And evil Confederate troops weren't around, either.

A sequel to 1998's "The Mask of Zorro," the movie has the good sense to reunite Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who generate considerable screen chemistry, as they did in the original. The photogenic twosome are as entertaining battling each other with verbal banter as they are in sword fights with the bad guys.

Clearly, Banderas and Zeta-Jones had a blast making the movie, and the pleasant results show on screen.

They play Don Alejandro and Elena de La Vega, now married and pillars of pre-Union 1850 California. Alejandro, of course, moonlights as Zorro, a masked man who protects the peasants from corrupt landowners and government officials.

As the movie opens, Don Alejandro's extracurricular activities are putting a strain on his marriage. With all that swashbuckling, Alejandro is short-changing Elena and their school-age son (a cute Adrian Alonso). Making matters worse, Alejandro reneges on his promise to hang up his Zorro mask after California votes to become part of the United States.

Becoming part of the Union doesn't bring the peace and justice Alejandro imagines. Soon Zorro finds himself battling an ancient order of European knights who are involved with Confederate forces.

Through a series of silly plot twists, Elena also ends up investigating an oily French guy (Rufus Sewell), who has something to do with the order of knights.

Director Martin Campbell doesn't seem very interested in the silly plot, though. He uses it as an excuse to stage a series of increasingly elaborate sword fights that feature Zorro, his wife and, eventually, his son.

Put your brain on hold and sit back and enjoy this guilty pleasure of a silly, swashbuckling movie.

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