Monday, October 31, 2005

Zorro Rides Again

Because I enjoy movies mostly for the escapist entertainment they provide, “The Legend of Zorro” gives me much to cheer about. Superb action, adventure, romance and comedy combine to make this sequel a fitting follow-up to “The Mask of Zorro.” Antonio Banderas brings his unique flair to the role of the heroic masked swordsman again, and gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones, as Mrs. Zorro, matches him once more with a charisma of her own. Adding to the fun is Adrian Alonso, an endearing young actor playing their precocious 11-year-old son.

In this rollicking sequel, Zorro has promised his wife to spend more time with her and their son than in doing heroic deeds, but he can’t resist the call for help from Californians trying to obtain statehood. Some very bad men stand in the way of this important goal and must be dealt with. Risking his relationship with wife and son, Alejandro dons Zorro’s dramatic black costume, takes up his sword and mounts his black steed Tornado for another dangerous adventure. After Elena (Zeta-Jones) files for divorce, our hero descends into a period of depression – but soon decides to woo her away from Armand (Rufus Sewell), a former flame using all the riches at his command to win Elena’s heart.

Banderas always takes my breath away with his performances. He projects the magnetism of an old-time movie star, and his expressive face reflects multiple emotions without the help of any dialogue. As Alejandro de la Vega/Zorro, he manages to be both dashing and funny at the same time. In his love/hate interactions with Zeta-Jones, he changes from tender to tyrannical with seamless perfection.

Thanks to director Martin Campbell, this exciting film moves along at a swift pace. It also boasts incredible stunts and set pieces. The scene showing Zorro astride his beautiful black horse galloping atop a speeding train emerges as one of the most impressive action shots of the year. Speaking of Zorro’s horse, other scenes featuring Tornado are quite amusing; they remind me of my favorite Western comedy, “Cat Ballou.” (Remember a drunken Lee Marvin on a horse with its legs crossed leaning against a building?)

After seeing so many downer movies lately, including "The Weather Man" and "North Country," I applaud “The Legend of Zorro” for bringing old-fashioned escapist entertainment back to the silver screen.


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