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Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde
2003 - PG-13 - 94 Mins.
Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Producer: David A. Nicksay, Marc Platt, David Nicksay, Marc E. Platt
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Bob Newhart, Luke Wilson, Regina King
Review by: John Ulmer
   
I'd be lying to you if I were to say that "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde" contained half the charisma, charm, humor and wit that the first film had. I'd also be lying if I told you that I think it was filmed out of respect for the audience as opposed to being yet another cash-in for Hollywood.

It starts out humorless but entertaining; I almost came to recommending it at some points. However, the second half is not only remarkably stupid but incredibly...well...incredulous. The film's vision of Congress is not only insulting, but the film is lacking the one-two punch of the first film, which may have been "Clueless Redux" but was nevertheless a pleasant spin of the blond ditz genre. It is basically a scene-for-scene rehash of the original, as if all the ingredients of the first were thrown into a blender along with a weak script about Congress.

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), the California sorority girl we loved from the first movie, is back once again, along with her original primary cast (sans Victor Garber and Selma Blair). She is engaged to Emmett (Luke Wilson), working for an esteemed law firm, and she still has her little dog, Bruiser, whose search for his mother leads to Elle protesting against animal cruelty (Bruiser's mom is conveniently a victim of lab research for cosmetic supplies, which, I fear, is not as serious as the film wants us to think). Elle presents the case to her law firm and is fired for lack of passion, so she then storms Congress with her protests in hopes of getting "Bruiser's Bill" passed, which strictly prohibits dog cruelty in terms of lab research (though I believe if Elle wanted to really make a difference she'd open a shelter for all the stray dogs living on the streets in D.C. - trust me, there are a lot).

The film's main inspiration undoubtedly comes from the Jimmy Stewart classic, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), all the way up to its feel-good end speech about dogs that comes from the ditzy Elle. I'm not one to pick apart movies for lack of believability, as I believe films are a gateway into other worlds far away from ours. But this pushes the envelope - it's just plain ridiculous. Are we really supposed to believe that Congress would click their fingers to applause a fellow Congressman, as seen during the end credits? A comedy lampoon such as "Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!" (1988) might get away with this, and perhaps even a lesser, more realistic comedy that has entertained us as so far that we would shrug off the stupidity of the material. But "Legally Blonde 2" isn't funny, and when the closing "and they lived happily ever on" credits start to roll we're supposed to laugh at the disturbing image of a screwed up U.S. Government? It's like laughing at a plane crashing into a tower: It hits too close to home.

Both Bob Newhart and Sally Field are given little to do in this film but serve as typical typed characters: The Nice Helpful Old Wise Man and the Mean Old Witch. (She even quips at one point during the film, "I'll get her. And her little dog, too." That's about as far as the film gets to recognizing and spoofing its own clich├ęs.) Then again, it's their fault for signing up for this film: Didn't they read the script?

I was a relatively big fan of 2001's "Legally Blonde." I thought it was a clever little comedy with a heart that didn't ask for much but gave a lot back, both in terms of laughter and fun. It was the perfect Friday night popcorn flick, equally entertaining for both sexes. I gave it a favorable review and bought the DVD, moving on and visiting it whenever I wanted a smile on my face. But when I heard of a sequel being planned as early as the same year of release I was discouraged (to say the least). Was the ending of the film not cheery enough to be left alone? Was the inevitable sequel really necessary? Of course, because any movie that makes more than it cost is sequel material, even something like "Gladiator" (2000). I looked forward to the sequel with as much unprejudiced eagerness as I could, and I tried to be fair to this film. I really did. I had read all the bad reviews when I went in for a screening, and I tried as best I could to ignore them. I thought I knew what I was in for - a mediocre sequel that would entertain me more than it did for other critics, mainly because I'm easy on sequels for the most part.

You are probably expecting the same as I was: A lightweight, harmless romp that entertains. You, like me, would be wrong. "Legally Blonde 2" simply has to be seen to be believed. The beginning indicates lack of respect for its audience; it goes through a cheesy flashback via a photo album (which has snapshots in it from the first film even though there was no one there to take the picture) - this indicates that it has no respect for its audience simply because it can't trust that its audience has seen the first film. That's the first warning sign of a cash-in. The first portion of the film is entertaining. The second half, like I mentioned above, is disastrous. The scene that finally solidified my verdict on the film was that involving a group of blond cheerleaders (and overweight males) walking into Congress and doing a cheer to promote Elle's Bruiser Bill. Puh-leaze. Not only that, it's filmed with such sheer awkwardness it's not funny but rather disturbing. We see hardworking Government officials peering through their spectacles to catch a flash of flesh, engaged and visibly entertained at the scene.

The manner in which this film presents Congress is ultimately disturbing. It regards the Congressmen and women as stupid dolts who are all hard-nosed but fragile inside. Elle Woods seems to be the only person who can unlock their emotions (the scene in which a Congresswoman starts to bawl over a dog is horrifying). This worked in the first film because (a) Elle inspired and made friends with fellow-aged individuals, not elderly Congressmen, and (b) it was about lawyers. Everybody hates lawyers. Lawyers are fair game for comedy, because they're regarded as corrupt and slimy, just as they have been for years. Congress, on the other hand, is simply not funny. Balding men and wrinkling women who pass laws are not funny to poke at. "Legally Blonde" worked because it was funny, had a heart, and was about a blonde making her way in the world of lawyers. You can't replay the same material twice. Continuing Elle's career in law would have been fine. But simply copying the original script and placing it in Congress as opposed to Harvard Law is a sad example of greed.

Let me stress this: Congress is not funny. Got that, Hollywood? There's a problem here that I sincerely hope "Legally Blonde 3" manages to sway from.

Note: I'd also like to address the manner in which this film was directed. It's bright, corny, fake, and haphazard. It contains the same feeling of disaster that "Clifford" (1994) and "Toys" (1991) had - you know, the awkward light-speed direction with odd frame angles and very, very shallow characters who seem to be just...fake. This whole movie seems fake. It's just so different than the first.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

 
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