In the sequel, Zorro and the missus fall flat

Review C+

October 28, 2005|By MICHAEL SRAGOW | MICHAEL SRAGOW,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

The makers of The Legend of Zorro, a bloated sequel to the exhilarating 1998 The Mask of Zorro, contend that it took them years to concoct a way to re-create the chemistry between Antonio Banderas' Zorro, the masked hero righting wrongs in Old California, and Catherine Zeta-Jones' Elena, his raven-haired lady fair.

That's what they say.

I think they dawdled until they noticed the success of Spy Kids, in which Banderas played the head of an espionage-agent family that stayed together because it slayed together. With Zorro and Elena married and the parents of an agile, rebellious 10-year-old, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso), the movie splits up the clan only to unite them in a battle royal against bad guys.

Set in 1850, right before California achieves statehood, it's got a contemporary political demographic - the heroes are home-grown Hispanics, the chief villains hail from Old Europe.

Director Martin Campbell and a quartet of screenwriters dump in everything from the rise of the Confederacy to the development of Weapons of Mass Destruction. What escapes them is the cool, clear line of action that would enable Banderas and Zeta-Jones to flaunt their amorous charms without huffing and puffing and stretch their swashbuckling muscles with dash, not balderdash.

The movie has its moments, especially when Banderas totters like a drunk out of an old Mad magazine or leans against a wall on his loyal, prescient horse, Tornado, like Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou. But Nick Chinlund overacts as a racist enforcer, Rufus Sewell underacts as Zorro's aristocratic romantic rival, and most of the huge cast doesn't act at all. They're caught in that family-film limbo where even broadswords don't draw blood and broad comedy draws groans, not laughs.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

The Legend of Zorro

(Sony Pictures)

Starring Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Directed by Martin Campbell.

Rated PG.

Time 125 minutes.

Review C+

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