2005-11-11 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

“The Legend of Zorro,” begins on a politically correct note. It is 1850 and the people of California are voting on a referendum for statehood.

The scene resembles the recent Iraqi constitutional election, except the masked man is no insurgent. He’s Zorro, defender of the poor and supporter of the United States of America. The bad guys are the evil land barons, bent on the continued suppression of the people.

After an exciting and elaborate swashbuckling sequence, Zorro rescues a stolen ballot box and sets up the annexation of California as the 31st state of the union.

If only Zorro would run for office. Instead, the predominately Latino West Coasters leave the governing to gringo politicians, who rarely have Mexican-American interests at heart.

Fortunately, this ponderous politicizing is offset by Antonio Banderas’ comic/heroic portrayal of the caped crusader, with more than a little help from beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones as on-again, off-again wife Elena and from precocious Adrian Alonso in the role of 10-year-old Zorro, Jr.

Once again directed by Martin Campbell ( “The Mask of Zorro”),the sequel is highlighted with Lucy-Desi squabbles between Don Alexandro de la Vega/Zorro and Elena, ultimately leading to divorce and a drunken confrontation between our hero and his rival, the sinister French aristocrat Armand (Rufus Sewell).

The plot becomes a bit convoluted with Armand’s connection to a secret religious order, the Knights of Aragon, pushing for world domination. Still, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg ensures that the stunts are on an “Indiana Jones” level, the best being one where Zorro and his horse jump on top of a train, only to gallop away from an oncoming tunnel.

On opening weekend, the bloody “Saw II” sliced :Zorro’s” grosses in half ($30.5 million to $16.5 million).

Yet, for those looking for old-fashioned Hollywood action romance for the whole family, go see the “Big Z.”

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