The Mask Of Zorro

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The Mask Of Zorro

More than any other movie this summer, The Mask Of Zorro represents a triumph of corporate anxiety, a desperate attempt to revive the old swashbuckler genre for today's audiences by throwing in every action/adventure standby (anachronistic dialogue, kid-friendly pain humor, the obligatory love duet during the closing credits) short of a sport-utility vehicle. Why else would it need two Zorros? But there's no use pretending that the films of Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power were any less formulaic, and The Mask Of Zorro is disarming for the same reasons, coasting on the charisma of its stars and a few exciting action setpieces. Anthony Hopkins plays the original masked hero, protecting California peasants from an oppressive Spanish governor (Stuart Wilson) in the early 1800s. Not so easily thwarted, his nemesis exacts his revenge, murdering Zorro's wife, throwing him in prison, and raising his baby daughter—who will grow to be the almost comically beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones—as his own. Too old by the time he finally escapes, Hopkins recruits an eager protégé, the ideally cast Antonio Banderas, to set things right. Both Zorros are obviously having a good time, with Hopkins enunciating beautifully (he makes a meal out of "Esperanza") and Banderas marveling at himself as he pulls off his many schemes and guises. Journeyman director Martin Campbell, whose previous credits include GoldenEye, doesn't really have a style of his own, but he knows how to deliver on a franchise. Attractively mounted, unpretentious, and always engaging, The Mask Of Zorro may benefit from lowering standards, but compared to murky, incoherent efforts like The Man In The Iron Mask and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, it delivers the goods.