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Friday, October 28, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Movie Review

"Zorro": Slash and burn, baby, bum

Seattle Times staff reporter

Florida sure could have used a Zorro in 2000.

The rancid sequel to 1998's "The Mask of Zorro" opens during a different vote, in 1850, when California is on the verge of statehood. Fanatical thugs try to steal that election by making off with the ballot box, only to get humiliating, super-acrobatic beatings from celebrity folk hero Zorro (Antonio Banderas).

Made as a bloodless PG family-action/comedy, this "Zorro" is an excellent reason for families to stay home together. The passionless string of the hoariest clichés is burnished with the phony luster of an "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" commercial (with James Horner's sweepingly melodramatic score amping up the cringes), and its plot seems to have been amalgamated by a computer program. See if any of this sounds familiar:

Movie review 1 stars


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"The Legend of Zorro," with Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Adrian Alonso, Rufus Sewell. Directed by Martin Campbell, from a screenplay by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. 126 minutes. Rated PG for sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments. Several theaters.

Mrs. Zorro (Catherine Zeta-Jones) wants her hubby to hang up the mask and spend more time with the family. Their young son (Adrian Alonso) doesn't know about the mask business and thinks his aristocrat dad is a wuss. After a contrived "It's-the-mask-or-me" argument, the couple is splitsville and the former Mrs. Z is being romanced by a foppish French nobleman (Rufus Sewell).

Will they get back together? Will Zorro ever win his son's respect? Will there be a Very Special Episode about cancer?

In one robotically grandiose set piece after another, countless henchmen are dispatched with swordplay but not a single stabbing, and hundreds of fake punches are thrown with scarcely a bruise. Sandwiched between them is a big scheme of James Bondian proportions unfolding in the secret lair at Frenchie's estate. Fittingly, when one of the criminals gathered at the big caper planning meeting decides to opt out, he's dispatched as a lesson in team-playing. (See "Goldfinger" and a zillion others.) And it builds to a climactic fight with the rich bad guy aboard the hurtling Disco Volante — I mean a railroad train.

So it's worth noting that director Martin Campbell (who did the previous "Zorro" as well as 1995's "GoldenEye") is directing the next Bond movie, "Casino Royale" — which is supposed to be a fresh restart of that stale franchise with the new Bond, Daniel Craig. This isn't exactly a hopeful indication of what to expect.

Banderas and Zeta-Jones throw themselves gamely — and broadly — into both the physical action and corny dialogue, and it becomes increasingly clear that Anthony Hopkins' wry, controlled performance as the older, outgoing Zorro was largely responsible for the previous film's $250 million success. His absence here is palpable.

Against expectations in "Legend," young Alonso is the only bright spot as the precocious chip-off-the-old-acrobatic block. A normal-looking kid who's not Dakota Fanning creepy, he steals the show. One Jackie Chanesque scene in which he trounces a bullying teacher jolted me awake with the fuzzy thought, Hey, I'd watch a movie just about him. Then it was back to carving out a few more Zs of my own.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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