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Friday, Oct 28, 2005
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Posted on Fri, Oct. 28, 2005

'The Legend of Zorro' is an action-filled, feisty sequel

If the question is whether passion, excitement and intrigue can be written into the narrative of marriage, the answer in "The Legend of Zorro" is an emphatic "no."

This feisty sequel to the surprise-hit "The Mask of Zorro," the 1998 movie that made a star of Catherine Zeta-Jones, reunites her with co-star Antonio Banderas, and this time they're eight years into marriage, with a cute little Mini Z in the household.

"The Legend of Zorro" can't wait to split them up. They're quarreling in their first scene (Mrs. Zorro nags hubby to give up swashbuckling), divorced before the end of the first act, and the plot has barely begun to creak before Zorro has crawled into a bottle of tequila to bemoan his ex-wife's fling with a shady French aristocrat (Rufus Sewell).

Why this determination to tear the De La Vegas apart?

To reunite them, of course, in a moment of renewed desire. But first, two hours of rousing action, physical comedy, and first-rate stunt work.

The Ain't-It-Cool-News crowd will never believe (or admit) it, but Zorro's schoolboy son Joaquin does more with a wooden ruler in a two-minute sword-fight send-up in "Legend," than The Rock did with his Big Freakin' Gun during the two-hour slog that was "Doom."

Director Martin Campbell (he's done a couple of Bond movies) has a flair for action - his "Vertical Limit" is a guilty pleasure of mine - and seems to enjoy the challenge of this Old West saga that relies on old-fashioned stunt work.

Horses outrace trains, men fight atop speeding freight-cars, Zorro disarms a posse of armed bandits with only his sword, a whip, fancy gym moves and, OK, maybe a concealed trampoline.

"Legend" has Zorro helping to safeguard 19th-century elections that will make the territory of California part of the United States.

His enemies are agents of European powers that see the growing U.S. as a threat to their interests.

They are allying themselves with officials of the soon-to-be Confederate states, and concocting a plan to arm the South with experimental, deadly explosives.

It's completely, enjoyably ridiculous, and best of all, provides the movie with an opportunity to kill an archvillain by blowing his head off with a single drop of nitroglycerin.

Nice touch: The bad guy sees his screaming face reflected in the liquid as it descends.

Banderas loves this role, and he seems to be more at ease as an actor when he's not being asked to handle anything too heavy.

Zeta-Jones is not actually Latin, but she's still the next best thing to Ava Gardner.

Cute kids can be annoying, except when they're actually cute, as Adrian Alonso is here as Zorro Jr.

It's good, clean fun, even at two-hours and 10 minutes, although the length will challenge the attention span of the youth audience to which the movie is pitched.

Produced by Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Lloyd Phillips, directed by Martin Campbell, written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, music by James Horner, distributed by Columbia Pictures.

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