About halfway through The Legend of Zorro, a mean-spirited government agent tells the legendary swashbuckler that “Zorro is a relic of the past.” Sadly, after a couple of hours of this well-meaning but generally dawdling flick, the past can’t come soon enough. This sequel to 1998’s The Mask of Zorro picks up 10 years after the original left off, with Don Alejandro de la Vega, known to a select few as Zorro (Antonio Banderas), and his long-suffering wife, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), bickering over the toll that his demanding peasant-saving duties have taken on their home life. This marital spat escalates to the point where Alejandro is kicked out of the house and Elena appears to take up with another, the wealthy Frenchman Armand (Rufus Sewell). Armand, it turns out, is hatching a plan to blow up California with the help of a large shipment of soap, and it’s up to our downbeat hero to rescue his ex and foil this sinister plot. Like its sturdier predecessor, Legend relies on a mix of swashbuckling and tongue-in-cheeking to tell the renegade’s story. Director Martin Campbell once again delivers crisp action sequences, and stars Banderas and Zeta-Jones make for a workable, if less than caramba-inspiring, Latino Bonnie and Clyde. (Not surprisingly, the now-A-list leading lady gets lots more screen time than she did in the original.) Where the film falls flat, however, is in its seriously siesta-inducing pace. At roughly two hours in length, the story (by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio) feels endless, particularly for a flick that’s clearly targeting a broad family audience. Restless kids will need to sit through a whole lot of not much between those snappy swordfights, including drawn-out domestic melodrama between Alejandro and Elena. Thank goodness, then, for the zippy presence of newcomer Adrian Alonso as Joaquin, the couple’s precocious 10-year-old son. The wide-eyed Alonso is Mexico’s answer to Dakota Fanning—young, gifted, and soon enough likely to be stuffed down our throats in unmanageable quantities. Still, we could do worse than seeing more of this kid in the future, even if Zorro himself is better left in the past.

—Mario Correa

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