'Zorro' returns to become a legend - 10/28/05

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Review

'Zorro' returns to become a legend

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Columbia Pictures

Antonio Banderas in "The legend of Zorro."

'The Legend of Zorro'

GRADE: Z (C+)

Rated PG for sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments.

Running time: 130 minutes

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As Zorro movies go, "The Legend of Zorro" is, well, a Zorro movie. Lots of clanking of swords, lots of galloping about, lots of acrobatics. Antonio Banderas looks hot; Catherine Zeta-Jones looks hotter (depending on your orientation). They have a cute little mini-Zorro this time around. What else did you expect?

"Schindler's List" it's not. But then who wants to go to a Zorro movie and see "Schindler's List"? You go to a Zorro movie to see Zorro beat the bad guys and -- spoiler alert! -- Zorro does indeed beat the bad guys in "Legend." Mission accomplished, as if you didn't know it would be.

The same Zorro questions exist in this movie as exist in all Zorro movies. How come blood doesn't come spurting out of people who are getting sliced and skewered by Zorro's sword? How come they don't fall screaming to the ground? Why is everyone such a terrible shot: Dozens of people with guns and nobody can hit this one guy? And how come that thin black mask makes Zorro completely unrecognizable to everyone?

You put that thin black mask on George W. Bush and everybody would go, "Hey, look at George in that thin black mask." Not Zorro, though. Somehow the thing magically hides his entire face.

Anyway, Zorro (Banderas) is a dad now, married to the luscious Elena (Zeta-Jones), father of perky kid Zorro-wannabe Joaquin (Adrian Alonso, who peps this picture up quite a bit), who's unaware his father is also his hero. Zorro -- his real name is Don Alejandro and of course he's rich -- is trying to cut back on the heroic hijinks to spend more time with his family, but darn it, somebody's always ringing that church bell and calling him to the rescue. Joaquin thinks his dad is just some lazy rich dude, and Elena wants the boys to bond a bit more closely.

California, the apparent land of Zorro, is just voting to join the United States, a process some dastardly folks are trying to halt. Zorro has to fight those dastardly folks. Which somehow leads to a fight with Elena and the two break up (this happens just as suddenly as it sounds). At which point Elena hooks up with some fancy pants French guy (Rufus Sewell) who, it turns out, is planning to overthrow the government of the United States with thousands of bars of ... soap?

Don't worry, it all makes a certain amount of Zorro sense. And in the grand tradition of such films, veteran action director Martin Campbell manages to work in funny drunk scenes, an elaborate dance sequence, a Tragic Death, an appearance by an Abe Lincoln look-alike and all sorts of high flying, death defying stunt extravaganzas. Campbell, a James Bond graduate, apparently thinks Zorro is a 19th- century Bond, and he's likely right.

Zeta-Jones seems to be having a lot of fun mimicking Banderas' accent, and the two ham it up at every available occasion. There are a lot of occasions available.

"The Legend of Zorro" may or may not swash your buckle, but it does what it sets out to do with a sense of self-aware humor and energy. It may not be a great film, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sword.

You can reach Tom Long at (313) 222-8879 or tlong@detnews.com.


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