Movie lightning rarely strikes the same place twice. But in the case of this sequel, ``The Legend of Zorro,'' it hits close enough to set off sparks.
It's not quite as much fun as watching Antonio Banderas and a then-unknown Catherine Zeta-Jones mix it up for the first time, as they did in 1998. But the cast reunites for a spirited revival of the old-fashioned and supremely entertaining ``Legend.''
Zorro, a.k.a. Don Alejandro de la Vega, is married to the spitfire Elena now. They have a son (Adrian Alonso) who is old enough to worship the masked Robin Hood of old California more than his ever-absent dad. Mom isn't happy.
``People still need Zorro,'' Don Alejandro protests.
``No, you still need Zorro,'' spits back Doña Elena.
But Don Alejandro has reasons to be MIA. California is voting on whether to join the United States. And in this hilariously inaccurate history lesson, there are ``Confederate'' forces, 10 years before the Confederate States exist, and fundamentalist bigots and European secret societies bent on foiling this union.
To make matters worse, the trouble at the polls is spilling over into the de la Vegas' home life. Zorro and the missus split up. Oily Count Armand (Rufus Sewell) is making time with Mrs. Masked Man. And government agents are digging into the chicanery of the various factions, sucking the whole Zorro clan into their plot. Zorro has to get over the three-month bender he has been on since his divorce, defeat the bad guys, win back the fair lady and impress his son.
This is a James Bond movie on horseback. There are Bond fights and Bond villains and Bond super-weapons.
The kid, Alonso, is a firecracker. His sword fight, using yardsticks, with his priest-schoolteacher is one of the most delightful popcorn moments the movies have given us all year. And Banderas brings all the humor and heart he brought to the ``Spy Kids'' movies to his interaction with the boy
Banderas and Zeta-Jones click again because they're better as fighting lovers than as mere marrieds. And the action, underscored by a flamenco-mariachi score, is fun. Epic sword fights and a train chase, all done with a PG lightness, make the whole thing just float by.
No, the one-liners aren't as crisp, and the action flags more often than it should, but this ``Zorro'' still upholds the legend.`The Legend of Zorro'
Rated: PG (violence, peril, profanity, suggestive moments)
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rufus Sewell
Director: Martin Campbell
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Johnston McCully
Running time: 2 hours