“Hercules” stumbled into a formula that incorporates plenty of action, reasonably good effects on an obvious budget, a self-effacing sense of humor, California surfer dialogue that for some reason doesn’t seem out of place and enough scantily clad flesh to qualify as a sort of mythological “Baywatch.”
“Xena” doesn’t measure up quantitatively in that last regard but compensates with its lead, Lucy Lawless, who — in the spirit of Red Sonja and other sword-wielding females — wears uncomfortable looking metal breastplates and proves undeniably easy on the eyes.
Little girls, in fact, will finally have their own hero amply capable of kicking butt, which violence watchdogs may consider a dubious distinction. Still , the ac-tion and tone is on such a cartoonish level no one should take offense.
For those poor souls who haven’t been following “Hercules,” Xena originated in that show as a bad gal who eventually turned good, briefly teaming up with Hercules. Now mimicking his penchant for traveling around righting wrongs, she initially saves a village from siege by a warlord (well played by Jay Laga’aia) from her own past, then finds herself defending her home village — which hasn’t forgiven Xena for her more nefarious days — from the same band of marauders.
Lawless is convincing in the title role, and the action sequences are cleverly staged, making the budgetary limitations involving a giant cyclops, for example, almost an asset.
As with “Hercules,” the hour fares less well in its attempts at comic relief, here embodied by a contemporary-minded young woman (Renee O’Connor) determined to become Xena’s protege and traveling companion.
The only real question commercially is whether the young men who account for most of “Hercules’ ” audience will hang around to watch a woman do the same, though Lawless and the wholesale action should be a solid attraction. As a result, this warrior princess should reign long enough to give even macho males a chance to get over their “Xena”-phobia.