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With: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Adrian Alonso, Nick Chinlund, Rufus Sewell
Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, based on a story by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Directed by: Martin Campbell
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments
Running Time: 128
Date: 10/24/2005
IMDB

The Legend of Zorro (2005)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bored Fighters

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

New Zealand-born director Martin Campbell had been working in film and television since the early 1970s without ever leaving a mark, until back-to-back in the 1990s, he moved to the "A" list by reinvigorating both the James Bond series (Goldeneye) and the Zorro series (The Mask of Zorro). Since then, he has lost his bounce with the decidedly lackluster Vertical Limit and Beyond Borders. His losing streak continues with the new The Legend of Zorro, a movie so stupid and so boring at the same time that it stops just short of causing Zorro creator Johnston McCulley to roll over in his grave. (Steven Spielberg executive produced.)

We join Zorro/Don Alejandro de la Vega (Antonio Banderas) in his happy marriage to Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Their son, seen as a baby at the end of the last film, is now a strapping lad, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso), capable of the same feats of daring as his father. But for some reason, the parents have decided to keep Zorro's secret from the youth, and he thinks his father is a big drip (otherwise, we wouldn't have a movie, I guess).

It's 1850 and California is on the verge of becoming a United State. Zorro makes a rare appearance to protect the ballot box, but he is spotted -- sans mask -- by a couple of secret agents. He goes home and fights with his wife over whether or not he should become Zorro anymore (he wants to, she's against it). Meanwhile, after a baffling series of coincidences, the couple is divorced and Elena is hitting on an evil, sneering Count (Rufus Sewell). But it's all part of a master plan -- or at least a moronic one.

In addition to the barely stitched-together story and its astonishing contrivances, The Legend of Zorro insists on spitting on the legend. For some reason, this Zorro blends kickboxing and kung-fu with his traditional sword-fighting, and the staggeringly one-dimensional villains now employ James Bond-like tactics. Apparently, Campbell forgot which sequel he was making. The loud, endless fight scenes vainly try to cover up for the lack of emotional content, and for some reason, the whole enterprise is allowed to drag on past the two-hour mark.

It's no secret that Zorro's name has been attached to dozens of less-than-satisfactory fare over the past century, and this one is no different. Like the serials of old, it lazily panders to young viewers, but also tries to rope in older viewers with its noisy violence.

Viewers are encouraged to stay home and rent their own Zorro marathon: the indefatigable Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro (1920) and Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925) -- both included on a handy double-feature DVD from Kino -- Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro (1940) and Banderas in Campbell's crisp, zingy The Mask of Zorro (1998).

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