The Legend of Zorro
Directed by Martin Campbell

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, based on a story by Mr. Orci, Mr. Kurtzman, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio

Starring Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zita-Jones


The Legend of Zorro

Like you, I take a secret pleasure in watching Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones play together as Zorro and Elena. They met (on screen) in 1998's "The Mask of Zorro," in which Banderas was trained by his father Anthony Hopkins(!) to take over the masked-crusader role. Yes, the scripts are dumb, the stunts beyond unbelievable and the villains cruder than crude, but I had a good time. And watching two of the most gorgeous stars in the business enjoying themselves as a couple was a treat.

Now, with "The Legend of Zorro," set on the coast of Mexican California, it's the moment when the people are voting to join the United States. The year is 1850, eleven years after "The Mask of Zorro;" Zorro -- or Alejandro as he is known to the world -- and Elena are married and they have a ten-year-old son, Joaquin, who already can do back flips and shoot his slingshot with unerring accuracy into the backside of a bad man. But Elena is coerced by the Pinkertons into spying on a wealthy newcomer, Armand (Rufus Sewell), who was a classmate of hers years before, in Spain, and now owns the biggest vineyard in San Mateo. But something's not quite right about Armand; with his charm and breeding and good looks, we wonder: What can it be? Well, maybe we don't wonder; we know we'll find out soon enough.

Meanwhile Banderas, as Zorro/Alejandro (you remember, his identity is a secret), is acting like a high-school sophomore watching his girl go out with the quarterback on the football team. They divorce (was that possible in Catholic California? No matter.) and Elena is soon hanging on the arm of Armand.

The film suffers from what you might call writers' block; there are four of them credited here, for story and screenplay, but the plot is so thin and everything in the film so telegraphed in advance that we can take no pleasure in anything like a surprise. And director Martin Campbell has staged every stunt to top the previous one; we get tired of watching them play out.

And yet - there are Banderas and Zita-Jones. They're having a good time, they obviously enjoy playing with each other, and of course they still look stunning. So let's forget the plot, the director and the writers, and be grateful for the few minutes of screen magic we do get. If only they had a decent script, they're good enough to play a new version of the screwball comedies of the 1930s. Maybe some bright bulb in Hollywood will give them the chance before it's too late.