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THE LEGEND OF ZORRO (article first published : 2005-12-9)

Set 10 years after the 1998 film, in which Antonio Banderas wore the cape and black mask as Zorro and clashed, then made whoopee, with one Elena, played by a feisty Catherine Zeta-Jones, The Legend of Zorro has its moments but they are few and far between in a film that not only drags but overstays its welcome.

Three times my intermittently bored-stiff 11-year-old pleaded with me to leave, so I was not alone in my opinion Now Zorro, known without the mask as Don Alejandro de la Vega, and Elena are wed and parents of a cute 10-year-old, Joaquin (Alonso). He's a boy unaware that his hero, the agile adventurer, a dab hand at cracking a whip and carving the letter Z everywhere, is his "pappy". All of which is rather hard to swallow, as Joaquin often hears the man speak and, even with his eyes and hair covered, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the man behind the mask is Don Alejandro.

The time is the mid-1800s, when people are voting to decide whether California should be unified into the United States of America. Civil war is pending and a threat facing the voting process is linked to plans to make explosives from .. er .. soap.

Zorro, of course, has to save the day. He hops on to his trusty black steed, cracks the whip and goes through the usual gymnastic, sword-and-fisticuff routines, delivered in cartoonish fashion with no blood. Adding to his woes is the fact that Elena has decided to leave him because he puts his heroics before family - and then she seems to warm to the romantic overtures of a slime-ball of a rich guy (a lacklustre Rufus Sewell). When the stuntwork kicks in, the film is a joy, particularly in the finale sequence, which involves free-for-alls on a speeding train.

However, the movie, directed by Martin Campbell, who also made The Mask of Zorro, is way too long at 130 minutes and when the action stops there are too many talking heads.

Featuring a loud and bloated score by James Horner, the film is most memorable for me for seeing Mary Crosby (remember her - the one who shot JR Ewing in Dallas?) in a non-speaking role as the wife of the governor of California. How the mighty have fallen. Rating: 5/10. - Billy Suter




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