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Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Bob Newhart
Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: July 2003
Genre: Comedy

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Review by Harvey Karten
1½ stars out of 4

The small percentage of movie-goers who do the right thing and stay in their seats until the final credits roll may notice the disclaimer: "Monitored by the American Humane Society. No animal was harmed during the production of this film." This regulation puts the U.S. in the minority of nations refusing to allow dogs, cats and other mammals displayed on the screen to suffer in any way. Yet when it comes to the use of four-legged creatures to test products, America is not yet there. What many in the audience of "Legally Blonde 2: Red White & Blonde" will realize at the close of the thankfully brief film is that dogs, like bunnies, are used by science not simply to research for cures for disease but for the trivial purpose of testing whether they will suffer when covered with mascara or lipstick. Kate Kondell, who wrote this sequel to "Legally Blonde," has her heart in the right place, but as we know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. While "Legally Blonde 2" isn't exactly cinematic Hades, the broadly drawn characterizations, the virtually complete absence of wit and nuance, and the message driven home that the only thing our sheep in Congress need is a heartfelt speech to make them join hands and vote unanimously for apple pie and motherhood, is close enough.

The problem is not with Reese Witherspoon, whose capacity for both comedic turns and dramatic flourishes was highlighted by Alexander Payne's entertaining yet spot-on satire, "Election." In that 1999 movie, filled with audacity and wickedness, a Nebraska teacher tries to stymie the election of a compulsively ambitious overachiever (played by Ms. Witherspoon), the latter gaining her revenge by exposing the instructor's extra-curricular sexual activities. This time around, her character settles for the predictable victory but in doing so, director Charles Herman- Wumfeld takes a step down in his career-making "Kissing Jessica Stein," which was a bold and unpredictable turn about the unexpected emotional consequences that befall a woman who answers a personal ad.

"Legally Blonde 2" finds Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), favoring pink and thereby standing out from the army of organization-man politicians decked out in the more appropriate colors of gray and black. When Elle goes to Washington to fight for a bill that would make illegal the use of animals to test cosmetics, she runs into several roadblocks. Congresswoman Victoria Rudd (Sally Field), who is sponsoring the bill and who has enlisted Elle to help her get it passed, betrays the young and pert Ms. Woods. The congresswoman's staff, headed by the straight-laced Grace (Regina King), are both repelled by Elle's audacity and envious of her preliminary successes. Her efforts to get the bill passed are blocked in turn by a no- nonsense member of the House, appropriately named Libby Hauser (Dana Ivey) and a conservative southerner, Stan (Bruce McGill). True to the nature of the sitcom, all the protagonist needs to do is to find the weaknesses in the opposition, exploit them, and move on to the glorious, crowd-pleasing finale.

If this film is meant to show how venal our legislators are (by opposing bills that they like if their principal donors to campaigns are opposed), it does so, but only superficially. Only Rip Van Winkle would lack the cynicism needed to explode the myths of fairness. If the movie indicates that the common guy, in this case doorman Sid Post (played by Bob Newhart whose years have not cured his irritating, Hugh-Grant-like stutter), knows what's good for America, yes, of course. If "Legally Blonde 2" is designed as a believable fable, a Ms. Woods Goes to Washington, then, no nor is that important. What is significant is the absence of any but the broadest, most sit- comish jokes, the sort of movie that will appeal to an audience that roars when it finds out Elle Woods's Chihuahua, Bruiser (Moondoggie), is gay.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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