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The Legend of Zorro

Banderas, Zeta-Jones Serve Up Sloppy Sequel

It's been seven years since a younger and noticeably fitter Antonio Banderas first donned the Mask of Zorro, teaming up with Anthony Hopkins and the sultry Catherine Zeta-Jones to breathe life into the legend of Don Alejandro de la Vega, the original caped crusader. Now, Banderas and Zeta-Jones are back for a curtain call -- Hopkins wisely declined to join them -- for The Legend of Zorro, a mess of a sequel burdened by an inane plot only buoyed by the enduring appeal of its stars.

Whereas Mask of Zorro was an old-fashioned swashbuckler driven by sly humor, sparkling swordplay and a semi-plausible story, Legend is all feather-brained fantasy. This time around, Zorro and his fiery wife Elena (Zeta-Jones) find their marriage on the rocks, and not even their precocious 10-year old, Joaquin (Adrian Alonso), can steer them away from a (temporary) separation. For his part, Alonso is merely required to act like a tough guy, a pintsized roughneck whose bravado seems a tad forced.

Banderas and Zeta-Jones, when they're not bickering or passionately groping each other, are charged with a far weightier task. The year is 1850, California is on the verge of joining the Union, and Zorro must stop a group of Confederate villains from arming their sympathizers with nitroglycerine, a weapon of mass destruction conveniently disguised as soap. If he succeeds, civil war will be avoided -- well, at least for a few more years -- and the Golden State will enter the Union as planned. If not, America will be ravaged by inner conflict and ultimately seized by a secret Spanish fraternity.

Sure. The Legend of Zorro isn't so much about a story as it is a justification for lots of frenetically paced, over-choreographed action sequences a shame, really, because the movie is not without its charms. Banderas and Zeta-Jones have a natural chemistry, and their gifts as physical comedians pay dividends when director Martin Campbell gives them a chance to play with this silly material. Otherwise, it is an exercise in pointlessness, meandering aimlessly and very, very loudly toward a most arbitrary conclusion.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars