By David Mumpower
July 10, 2003
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde is a textbook example of a sequel that has little understanding of what made the first film so good. The character of Elle Woods is always going to walk a fine line with regards to making a joke rather than being a joke. That makes discretion a key to the success of any humor involving this spoiled valley girl misplaced in the world of the finest legal minds in the world.
In the original, a mood was developed that allowed for audiences to gradually be won over by Elle’s charm and innate decency to the point that we were able to accept her eccentricities. Legally Blonde 2 is made using the assumption that viewers already love the character so much that there is little need to remind them of what’s good in her. That proves to be a mistake as all the charm Reese Witherspoon possesses isn’t enough to save Elle Woods from looking like a one trick pony stuck in a competition for renaissance thoroughbred of the year.
The too-quirky comedy finds our favorite blonde planning her wedding when she gets the idea that her dog Bruiser’s mom has to attend the ceremony. If you’re already thinking “uh-oh,” you can probably stop right there and dismiss the movie out of hand; it only gets stranger from there. It turns out Mama Bruiser is being used in animal experiments at a secret make-up facility. Elle randomly decides that this should become her cause of the moment and we’re off.
She heads to our nation’s capitol to bend the legislation of this country to her will. The whole thing plays out like Marcia Brady Goes to Washington or a modern update of Schoolhouse Rocks with marginally more life-like characters than in the animated short. On the plus side, director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (who showed significantly more prowess in Kissing Jessica Stein) is self-aware enough to acknowledge this fact. There is an update of I’m Just a Bill performed by Deluxx Fold Implosion used in the movie/soundtrack, and a scene from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is played during one key sequence. It’s hard to brush off the sheer volume of homages, though, when even the most important moment in the sequel appears to be a direct lift from a particular Simpsons episode where Lisa Simpson also naively journeys to our nation’s capitol. Somebody at MGM owes Matt Groening a royalty check. But I digress.
During the course of her latest adventure, Elle runs into a group of fellow would-be politicians who are eerily similar to her fellow would-be lawyers from the original film. There is the antagonizing bitch who dismisses her out of sight, this time played by Regina King (Secret decoder hidden message for the too talented for this garbage Regina: New agent. Now.). There is the dressed down girl who could be pretty if she only had some avatar of keen fashion to show her the way. And there’s the dorky guy who would be attracted to the dressed down girl if only she weren’t so gosh-darned plain and awkward (The National Organization for Women must be beaming with pride at these roles).
Yes, it’s all just as transparent as it sounds. Calling these secondary “characters” single-dimensional is probably a violation of spatial law as we’re being a full dimension too generous. They’re more appropriately described as will-o-the-wisps somehow captured on camera in the background a la that ghost in Three Men and a Baby as Reese smiles her dimply, big toothed smile in the foreground.
The other noteworthy sham is the theoretical presence of Luke Wilson, who is currently co-starring in every movie released this summer. What with his busy schedule of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Alex & Emma, Old School and this project, I guess it was ambitious of the producers to expect him to be available for the entire shoot. Instead, he seems to randomly show up every eighth or ninth scene for no apparent reason other than to point out that yes, the wedding is still on and that yes, he still loves Elle very much.
For her part, Elle is all about looking pretty, being fashion conscious and outwitting all of those smarmy Beltway types who think they’re such hot stuff. This sort of token pandering provides inconsistent laughs; there are bits with dog bondage, sorority cheerleaders, and even a snap jar (don’t ask). While I cannot honestly state that the jokes all fall flat, the signal to noise ratio is piss poor. This is not Airplane! It’s not even Naked Gun 33 1/3. It’s more like Jane Austen’s Mafia with a significant bump up in humor value when the oddly out-of-place comic genius Bob Newhart is on screen. The producers appear to have talked him out of retirement by promising him all of the good lines. Poor Sally Field doesn’t even get that sort of respect as her character is ill-conceived and largely inconsistent in her behavior. She’s a non-factor here.
Overall, Legally Blonde 2 proves to be a haphazardly thrown together series of vignettes that don’t flow together. I admire the decision to just go for it from the start, but the shortcomings of a poorly fleshed out script kill any chance of success for what was in theory a good idea for a second story. Reese Witherspoon certainly owns this character and has an impressive willingness to do anything for a cheap laugh, but it’s just not enough to save the movie.
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