The Legend of Zorro (PG) ★★½

Review Date: October 28th, 2005

This seven-years-later sequel lacks the sexy, cutting zing! that made 1998's The Mask of Zorro a sharp, stylish update of the old school swordsman. Instead, the sequel favors more a family-friendly approach. Still, there's enough caliente chemistry to be found between stars Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Story

Alejandro (Banderas), the former thief turned defender of the downtrodden, seems poised to give up his swashbuckling ways as California shifts from Mexican territory to U.S. statehood. But he stubbornly refuses to be domesticated. A rift grows between Mr. and Mrs. Zorro when his wife Elena (Zeta-Jones) insists he's not there for his spirited young son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). But even as Elena appears to divorce Alejandro and dally with a mysterious, dashing old schoolmate (Rufus Sewell), Zorro remains a much-needed force of good when he discovers a plot that threatens to tear the U.S. apart.

Acting

Still ranking high among the most beautiful people currently on the big screen, Banderas and Zeta-Jones successfully evolve their on-screen relationship to reflect the too-long passage of time between films. If only the arch energy they bring to their banter and the passion they heat their love scenes with weren't hindered by the clich├ęd, by-the-numbers script. Meanwhile, though a semi-believable potential romantic rival to Banderas, the ever-arresting Sewell remains one of the most underutilized actors in Hollywood, relegated to yet-another period heavy role. Alonso shows pluck as the budding Zorro, Jr., but his charisma is dampened by overly cutes-y scenes and too-modern one-liners. Even though both Banderas and Zeta-Jones have emerged as top-flight actors and A-level movie stars since the original, the sequel still sorely misses the class and gravitas Anthony Hopkins brought to the first outing.

Direction

None of director Martin Campbell's films since The Mask of Zorro have demonstrated the same whip-smart panache, and sadly this sequel, though serviceable, is no exception. He competently carries off the necessary but familiar-feeling action set pieces, and at times he lets the simmering sex vibe between his stars run loose, albeit briefly, on the screen. The film certainly isn't so lackluster as to provoke bored Zs from the audience, but it's a shame to see El Zorro's blade this dulled.

Bottom Line

This seven-years-later sequel lacks the sexy, cutting zing! that made 1998's The Mask of Zorro a sharp, stylish update of the old school swordsman. Instead, the sequel favors more a family-friendly approach. Still, there's enough caliente chemistry to be found between stars Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.