Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde

At the coda of 1999’s Election, Reese Witherspoon’s unforgettable character, high school overachiever Tracy Enid Flick, ends up as a legislative aide in Washington, D.C. It’s a perfect ending to a spot-on black comedy that illuminates hypocrisy in America as well as any film in recent history.

In Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde, Witherspoon’s latest venture, she also plays a political aide. But that’s the only element the films have in common. Election is brilliant, quirky satire; Legally Blonde 2 represents the worst in Hollywood sequelitis. Not only dull and unfunny, it’s appalling, and darned near offensive in its vapidity. Even the adorable designer clothes, which usually add lots of fun to a lightweight story like this, don’t liven up the action.

Witherspoon has to take credit on several fronts for the disaster. As well as reprising the starring role as a cute and bubbly (yet smart!) Harvard law student with an obsessive fashion sense, she’s also billed as executive producer. But blame also must go to screenwriter Kate Kondell and director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who take the thin, occasionally amusing premise of the first Legally Blonde and turn it into this horrifyingly soulless 94-minute exercise.

This time around, the perky Elle Woods takes on the nation’s capital a la Jimmy Stewart. The film even shows Elle and her fiance Emmett (Luke Wilson, in the epitome of a thankless role) watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on TV. But what a sacrilege vision; for while Smith fights for rights and principles, Elle fights for the right to look like a princess.

As in the original film, Elle succeeds because she’s sweet and cute, but more importantly, she knows fashion and trends as well as she does law. She wins in Washington’s unforgiving halls by tapping into her opponents’ vanity. She earns a political friend because she recognizes the lipstick color the congresswoman wears, or she gets support because her overdressed Chihauhua Bruiser fancies a rottweiler owned by a senator whose views she needs to sway. (Even though the pups may the the first gay canines to hit the mainstream big screen, that doesn’t make them funny.)

Not once does Elle succeed by knowing any facts about her issue. In fact, the film’s most savvy political character is a doorman played by Bob Newhart. Huh?! The movie’s so mind-numbingly stupid, it’s hardly worth describing the plot — about how Elle takes up banning animal testing when she discovers that beloved Bruiser’s mother is a test subject for a cosmetic company.

She gets work in the office of a friend and mentor in the House of Representatives (Sally Field), whose staffers rightly are incredulous of Elle’s hot pink Jackie Kennedy ensemble, and even more, her giddy naivete. Their initial reaction to the superficial sweetie is about the only recognizably human element of Legally Blonde 2. It complements the unpleasant feeling generated by watching this witless movie.

– Leslie Katz