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 fiancé, 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.