Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde (United States, 2003)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Legally Blonde 2 should never have been made. It is a cinematic abomination - a source of embarrassment for everyone involved. There have been worse films this year, but none has been marketed as this fun-loving and upbeat. Worthwhile moments are few and far between, and Reese Witherspoon's incandescent charm, which was one of the original Legally Blonde's saving graces, is so bright that it creates a glare. There's such a thing as being too perky.

It wasn't that long ago when sequels were made for a better reason than "the first one made money." Alas, that's what it has come to. Creativity is out the window. It used to be that a sequel existed to present the further adventures of a likeable and/or compelling character (or group of characters). First follow-ups often took their protagonists in new and unexpected directions (consider, for example, The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). No more. Now, no one wants to rock the boat. Consequently, the average sequel can be summed up by four words: "More of the same." And that's precisely what Legally Blonde 2 is - more of the same. Only this time, because it's familiar and done with minimal style (by director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who previously helmed the delightful Kissing Jessica Stein), it's not as palatable. The clever stuff has grown stale. And the sweet stuff has become sickly and syrupy. Then again, what better choice could there be to go up against Terminator 3 than this kind of sticky goo? You can't get much more anti-Terminator than Elle Woods.

Reese Witherspoon is back as Elle, a character I had seen enough of by the end of the first Legally Blonde. For those who felt the 2001 movie had pretty much worn out its welcome by the time it stumbled across the finish line, Legally Blonde 2 will be nothing short of torture. Go next door and see Arnold Schwarzenegger. He'll be back. And, while the same can be said of Witherspoon, hopefully it won't be as Elle. I have had more of this character than I can stomach in one lifetime.

The problem, which is even more true than it was in Legally Blonde, is that the filmmakers try to inject a serious message (about the importance of the individual in the political process) into a production that wants to be seen as a satire. It is possible for comedies to contain drama, and vice versa, but the foundation for both has to be solid. Here, it isn't. Popcorn movies are very bad places in which to take soap-box stands. If Legally Blonde 2 had been satisfied with just being fun and funny, it might have been enjoyable. The movie gets into trouble when it starts preaching and pandering.

The movie's "cause" will provoke PETA members into jumping for joy, although the intelligence of the animal rights' activists in Legally Blonde 2 might give them pause. (Then again, one could make a successful case that no one in the movie has an IQ in the triple digit range.) When Elle learns that the mother of her beloved dog Bruiser is being subjected to experimentation by a cosmetics firm, she goes on a crusade. This results in her losing her job at a Boston law office, then getting a new post working for Massachusetts Congresswoman Victoria Rudd (Sally Field), whose most notable moment comes when she quotes the Wicked Witch of the West. As Representative Rudd's legislative aide, Elle attempts to chaperone a bill through Congress that will ban animal experimentation, but she encounters unexpected resistance from Rudd's Chief of Staff, Grace Stoteraux (Regina King). Fortunately, Elle has Sid the bellhop (Bob Newhart) on her side. He knows everything there is to know about politics, and provides her with information and strategy tips.

Even in Frank Capra's wet dreams (and there is a nod to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), things would never go as smoothly in Washington as they do here for Elle. Granted, this is supposed to be a fairy tale, but some vague semblance of reality would have helped the cause. I mean, are we supposed to believe that a hard-line conservative Republican would suddenly back Elle's bill because he bonds with her while dog-walking? During the course of the movie, Elle makes a lot of speeches, and these result in people joining her cause. This would be understandable if they were good, inspirational speeches, but they are simply awful. Elle's words are more likely to dissuade potential followers than recruit them.

Then there's that damn dog. This isn't a normal canine - it's one of those irritatingly cute dogs that exist only in movies and whose entire purpose is to cause viewers to go "awwwww." Of course, since Bruiser is such a adorable and cuddly little thing, nothing bad ever happens to him. How I long for someone with the diabolical cleverness of John Cleese, whose script for A Fish Called Wanda called for three splattered dogs.

Legally Blonde 2 is clearly in the PETA camp in that it shows more concern for animals than human beings. Although the movie wants its viewers to understand that the use of animals for cosmetics testing is cruel and wasteful, it employs an inhumane method of conveying that message - asking people to sit through this. Even those who enjoyed the light breeziness of the first Legally Blonde will likely find this too much of an endurance contest. It's mawkish, superficial, and artificial, without a hint of cleverness or humor.

Never have I preferred brunettes more.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde (United States, 2003)

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Cast: ReeseWitherspoon, Sally Field, Bob Newhart, Luke Wilson, Regina King
Screenplay: Kate Kondell
Cinematography: Elliot Davis
Music: Rolfe Kent
U.S. Distributor: MGM
Run Time: 1:35
U.S. Release Date: 2003-07-02
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1