Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde
Director : Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
Screenplay : Kate Kondell (story by Eve Ahlert & Dennis Drake and Kate Kondell, based on character created by Amanda Brown)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2003
Stars : Reese Witherspoon (Elle Woods), Sally Field (Rep. Victoria Rudd), Regina King (Grace Rossiter), Jennifer Coolidge (Paulette), Bruce McGill (Stanford Marks), Dana Ivey (Rep. Libby Hauser), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Reena Giuliani), Jessica Cauffiel (Margot), Alanna Ubach (Serena McGuire)
There’s a Saturday Night Live skit from about 10 years ago in which Victoria Jackson, that paragon of cliché blonde vapidity, goes on “Weekend Update” and gives a commentary on why “dumb blonde” jokes don’t make any sense, which, of course, just reinforces her blondeness by showing that she doesn’t get even the simplest joke.
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, & Blonde is much like that in reverse: It gets the blonde jokes only too well, but has no idea how to use them. The original Legally Blonde was the sleeper hit of summer 2001, and it worked pleasantly well in the way it took stereotypes and both laughed at them and deconstructed them. The ultimate joke was on those who want to pin people in strict categorical boxes. The movie didn’t strive for too much and, as a result, it worked.
Legally Blonde 2, unfortunately, sets its aims too high in trying to become a modern-day Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, complete with longwinded speeches about patriotism and numerous standing ovations. It’s a paper-thin paean to the little person in pink fighting the big bad system and winning it over with plain, good ol’ fashioned decency.
This time around, the irrepressible Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), now armed with a Harvard law degree as well as an impeccable sense of high style and a positive attitude that registers somewhere outside the ozone layer, decides to take on Washington by getting a bill passed to ban animal testing. The reason for this? She discovers that the “biological mother” of her pet Chihuahua, Bruiser, is being used for cosmetics product testing. Elle comes to the grand realization that the price of beauty isn’t that high.
She immediately runs into problems in Washington since they do things “the Washington way,” which is definitely not “the Elle Woods way.” Director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (Kissing Jessica Stein) makes an amusing visual statement early on, using a high-angle shot to show Elle, dressed in hot pink, charging up the capital steps amid a sea of black suits; it’s a quick and easy summary of the movie’s entire ethos. Elle is working for Representative Victoria Rudd (Sally Field), who admires her spunky grrrl power even if the members of her staff, particularly the sour-faced chief of staff Grace (Regina King), can’t stand her. In other words, it basically retreads all the same plot points and obstacles Elle encountered in the first movie, but it’s as if she hasn’t learned anything from her bout with the snobby grad students at Harvard. If anything, Elle’s character is turbocharged this time around, making her seem even more like a caricature rather than a character, and it’s no small surprise that so many dismiss her right off the bat.
Of course, making people who hate her at first like her seems to be Elle’s calling in life, and she does just that. But, that is only of secondary concern to the movie’s rampant do-gooderism about saving animals and not letting cynicism get the best of the goodness government can do. The story gets so side-tracked in its political plot maneuverings that it forgets what’s funny about Elle Woods—namely, that she’s such a complete entity that she overcomes all obstacles not by deeply concerted effort, but simply by being who she is. There’s too much focus on her trying to get votes for “Bruiser’s Bill” and not enough on Elle Woods herself. Despite Witherspoon’s energetic performance, her character gets lost in the movie’s misguided quest for some kind of meaningfulness.
Copyright © 2003 James Kendrick