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The Legend of Zorro: Good, bad & never ugly
By James Verniere/ CNC Film Critic
Friday, October 28, 2005

Is Zorro the Latino Spider-Man, Batman on horseback or a pre-Civil War West Coast James Bond? That he is all of them and so interchangeable speaks to the cookie cutter, if not tortilla-cutter nature of mainstream American studio filmmaking.
     Directed by Martin Campbell, who is not accidentally set to direct the next James Bond movie, "The Legend of Zorro" demonstrates much of what is good and bad about American movies.
      Shallow and excessive, the film is also nicely acted, and even nicely overacted by a talented, amiable cast and features well-choreographed, if ridiculously implausible fight scenes.


      Essentially, it is a remake of Campbell's 1998 hit "The Mask of Zorro" in which the lead characters look about five to 10 years older. Let me hasten to add that beautiful people Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones still look absolutely stunning, even if they appear to be photographed by two different cameras in the same scene.
      She looks as if she's been buffed over with diamond dust and spray-painted with mocha-colored liquid velvet, which for all I know she has. The film's leads also have chemistry, and I'm not only referring to Zorro and his steed Tornado, a kind of oat-and-tequila-guzzling Batmobile on four-legs.
      Scripted by the writing teams Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("The Island") and Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott ("Pirates of the Caribbean"), the film casually, if venally distorts North American history in the name of commerce and flagrantly steals a famous shot from the 1965 western spoof "Cat Ballou."
      It is 1850 and California is on the brink of statehood as the action begins. Zorro (Banderas), champion of the pueblos and also known as Don Alejandro de la Vega, has flown into action to stop a thief from stealing the ballots. At about the same time, Alejandro's sultry, tempestuous wife Elena (a dewy Zeta-Jones, taking a much-needed break from her T-Mobile advertising duties) has decided she wants Zorro/Alejandro to settle down, cease responding to the church bells that summon him Batman-style, hang up his bullwhip and saber and devote himself to raising his delinquent-in-training young son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). [continue]
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