2001's "Legally Blonde" surprised by discounting all of its "dumb
blonde" stereotypes with generous helpings of laughs, wit, sass, and
sweetness. It also helped that the effervescent Reese Witherspoon
(2002's "Sweet Home Alabama") was cast in the lead role of Elle Woods,
a bubbly, fashion-obsessed sorority sister who followed her ex-boyfriend
to Harvard Law School and became a savvy attorney in the process.
Two years later, Witherspoon flawlessly repossesses all of the giddy
charm and intelligence Elle has to offer in "Legally Blonde 2: Red,
White & Blonde," an unnecessary but amiable sequel.
Having graduated from Harvard two years ago, Elle Woods now happily
works at a Boston law firm while planning her wedding to fellow attorney
Emmett (Luke Wilson). When she decides to track down the mother of
her beloved Chihuahua, Bruiser, so that she can be invited to the
nuptials, Elle is horrified to discover she is being cruelly tested
upon by a cosmetics company. After speaking her mind on the subject
and getting fired for it, Elle follows her heart to Washington, D.C.,
where she gets a job working as an aide for Rep. Victoria Rudd (Sally
Field). Elle's goal is to pass a bill through Congress that will prohibit
product testing on animals. What she soon discovers, however, is that
Washington is run a lot different than she is used to, and to win
over Congress she will have to really put her natural smarts and keen charms to the test.
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (2002's "Kissing Jessica Stein")
and written by Kate Kondell, "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde"
boasts being the further empowering adventures of Elle Woods, but
in actuality is little more than a loose remake of the original. Whereas
the 2001 picture was imaginative and thoroughly entertaining, the
sequel is satisfied in simply repeating the same formula and expecting
magic to strike twice. Because Reese Witherspoon is as delightful
as she's ever been, and because her comic timing is spot-on and much
of the dialogue is quick-witted and funny, "Legally Blonde 2" goes
down with untroubled ease. At the same time, it is clearly a lesser
movie and lacks the supreme freshness of its predecessor.
Taking over for Selma Blair's stuck-up character, Vivian, who eventually
warmed up to Elle's pink-infested ways, is Grace Stoteraux (Regina
King), a Congressional aide who fails to take Elle seriously because
of her physical appearance. Just as Elle befriended lowly and shy
hairdresser Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge, returning here) in the first
film, she makes a confidant this time in the form of friendly, underappreciated
doorman Sidney Post (Bob Newhart). Inspiring visits are also made
by Elle's sprightly Delta Nus sisters Margot (Jessica Cauffiel) and
Serena (Alana Ubach). And in place of a murder trial, here Elle must
form a foolproof plan to get her animal rights bill signed by 218
members of Congress. Meanwhile, Bruiser comes out of the closet when
he sparks a romance with a same-sex dog.
Yes, "Legally Blonde 2" is as silly as it sounds, and that is a big
part of the problem. While the original was silly yet plausible in
its own way, one is asked to suspend disbelief more than a few times
on this go-round. Certain plot developments are far-fetched in the
extreme, unveiled simply to come up with enough new ideas to stretch
things out past 90 minutes. Meanwhile, the premise is nothing if not safely predictable.
Appearing in literally every scene, Reese Witherspoon is simply delectable
as Elle Woods, her energy and spirits never flagging. Without Witherspoon,
there would be no movie, or at least not a watchable one. Jennifer
Coolidge (2003's "A Mighty Wind"), a standout from the original as
Paulette, makes a few sporadic appearances, but disappointingly is
given nothing but a stream of one-liners in place of character depth.
The same goes for returning sorority friends Margot and Serena, played
by Jessica Cauffiel (2001's "Valentine") and Alanna Ubach (1997's
"Clockwatchers"). As Elle's fianc‚, Emmett, Luke Wilson (2003's "Alex
and Emma") has even less to do, if that's possible.
New to the series, Sally Field (2001's "Say It Isn't So") and Bob
Newhart gamely play parts beneath their abilities, while Regina King
(2003's "Daddy Day Care") adequately fills in for the absent Selma
Blair as the resident snob who turns out to have a soft side. As a
stodgy Congresswoman who lightens up to Elle when she finds out she's
a fellow Delta Nus, Dana Ivey (2002's "Orange County") acquires some
fun moments. And as mousy aide Reena, whom Elle helps to open up,
Mary Lynn Rajskub (2002's "Punch-Drunk Love") continues her stream
of indelibly performed offbeat supporting characters.
In addition to Reese Witherspoon's first-class involvement, where
the film is saved from being a completely wasted sequel is in its
sheer good-hearted message to stand up for what you believe in and
never be anybody but yourself. Elementary themes, to be sure, but
they work in the context of such a sweet cotton-candy confection.
The laughs, many of which come from the super-clever dialogue, arrive
on a mostly regular basis, if not quite as often as they did during
the first movie. In continuing the exploits of Elle Woods, a fabulous
modern-day heroine if there ever was one, "Legally Blonde 2: Red,
White & Blonde" may come dangerously close to stretching its withery
conceits too thin, but there is still enough bounce (not to mention
bend and snap) in the career woman's steps to make for a pleasant
enough 94-minute diversion.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman