This movie is so much fun. It could not have been more perfectly cast. Anthony Hopkins as the elder Zorro has just the right amount of suaveness layered over a quiet but intense desire for revenge. Catherine Zeta Jones makes a great traditional "spunky heroine", with enough flashy moves of her own that she's never the damsel in distress. And Antonio Banderas, ahh. Seeing this movie reminds me of why I was a fan of his after so many of his other movies did their best to put me off him. If you'd only seen "Two Much" and "Ballistic: Ecks Vs Sever", you'd wash your hands of him forever.
Which is perhaps what the entertainment industry has done. How else to explain how such a charming, charismatic actor gets so few good roles? Is it just his Spanish accent getting in the way? If so, what a pity. As the younger Zorro, he displays all his talents: He starts off as a bumbling bandit, so unkempt you can practically see the fleas on him. His transformation is a wonderful thing to behold. Step by step, he becomes the dashing swordsman, both in appearance and bearing. Every look of his eyes, every flick of his hand is just right. He has amazing acting instincts.
Another thing I like about this movie is the pacing. It takes its time setting up the story so you get a good background. By the time the bandits appear, you already care about them, because you've met them as children in a previous scene. At the same time though, there's never an instance where I felt the movie was moving too slowly, even with all the backstory.