Directed by: Martin Campbell
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Adrian Alonso, Rufus Sewell, Nick Chinlund
Nothing's sexier than a guy who knows how to handle a cape. If he also wears a black hat and high boots with silver spurs and rides a maniac black stallion that thinks it's a gazelle -- well, viva El Zorro!
Antonio Banderas was born to play "The Fox," the California folk hero who hides his derring-do behind the persona of a self-deprecating don. His wife is the equally sexy Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whose verbal nips are as cutting as her lightning swift sword. It's been seven years since the couple's famous first outing in The Mask of Zorro. They're now the parents of a 10-year-old son, Joaquim, played by Mexican charmer Adrian Alonso.
Alas, as heroes and heroines of all time have discovered, marriage can put a damper on adventure, so the dashing couple is having a difficult time with the realities of family life. Elena wants her husband to hang up his mask and pay more attention to their son. Zorro, naturally, wants to continue being a swashbuckling legend. He forgets how determined a smoldering brunette can be and -- muy pronto -- he's reading divorce papers.
Meanwhile, in 1850 California, residents have voted to join the country as a free state, throwing the balance of power against the troublesome forces of the future Confederacy. The nation's security is being threatened by an ancient fraternity named the Knights of Aragon, which slipped out of the DaVinci Code and headed West. They intend to blow up America with weapons of mass destruction made from the terrifying new invention of nitroglycerine. Heading this nefarious group is a suave but slimy French vintner, Armand (Rufus Sewell, A Knight's Tale), who woos Elena with magnificent pearls. His creepy, fluoride-challenged American yes-man is McGivers (Nick Chinlund, Chronicles of Riddick), who taunts his victims by claiming he's doing "God's work."
Unbeknownst to Zorro, who's staying drunk to drown his marital woes, Elena goes undercover to unmask the bad guys. If I give more details of the plot, you'll hate me. Suffice it to say you'll love the hyperkinetic cinematic happenings -- speeding trains, racing horses, dueling dancers, swirling swordfights, whizzing bull whips, dangerously dangling bottles of nitroglycerine and lots of jumping, leaping, rolling, spying, punching, bucking, shooting, galloping and hanging on for dear life. (Si, senores and senoras, it's totally silly.) And then there's the gorgeous Mexican scenery, marvelous sets and costumes, incredible music, fantastic jewelry and a great little kid who's a chip off Zorro's block.
With all that action, there's violence, of course. The parents of overly sensitive children should know there's one scene in which the bad guys kill a good guy; it's off-screen and over quickly, but it is there. Otherwise, Zorro follows the usual pattern of cartoonish mayhem -- an endless stream of secondary bad guys get bloodlessly pummeled and the two primary bad guys go out with a bang. Rated PG for sequences of violence/peril and action, language and a couple of suggestive moments.
-- reviewed by Marci Miller