...the film takes the low road, going for easy laughs at easy targets and easy issues.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

If you recall, the original "Legally Blonde" was a lightweight piece of fluff that was easy to take and made a few points along the way about how we perceive people. I said at the time of its DVD release, that I thought it was "a modern fairy-tale fantasy about clichéd images and, better, a film that never takes itself, its characters, or its messages too seriously." While "Legally Blonde" was not a knockout comedy, it was enjoyable. Its sequel, Legally Blonde 2," is not only not up to its predecessor's charm, it's downright annoying.

Reese Witherspoon starred in "Legally Blonde" as Elle Woods, an airheaded little rich girl from Southern California who goes off to Harvard Law School to be with her boyfriend, learns to grow up, and takes responsibility for her life. She was looked down upon and ridiculed by her Harvard classmates until they and she acquired a mutual understanding and respect for one another, and Elle graduated with honors.

Now, forget all that.

As "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blue" begins, Elle has either ignored or lost track of everything she learned in grad school about using her mind and being a mature human being. Instead, she shows up at her new job as part of the legal counsel for a U.S. Congresswoman in Washington, D.C., wearing the same goofy pink outfits, shepherding the same cutesy little dog, and maintaining the same scatterbrained attitude she did on her first day at Harvard. Is she really as stupid as all this? No. It's just that the film's writers needed to come up with a continuation of Elle's story and apparently couldn't think of any other situation to put her into other than the same one they had already had success with. Well, as they say, nothing succeeds like success, so why mess with it?

Unfortunately, this second time around we already recognize that Elle is a bright, intelligent, and sensitive woman of great inner strength and maturity, so it's galling to see her behaving so feeblemindedly when we know that she should know better. Anyway, there isn't much in this second installment that we can't see coming a mile away, including her eventual acceptance by the Washington political community.

I believe without Ms. Witherspoon this whole movie would have been a total loss. Fortunately, she continues to exude a sweetness and charisma that are hard to resist, and she does have an underlying quality of assuredness, both as an actress and as a character in the film, that make watching her escapades tolerable.

When the story opens Elle is working in a Boston law office and somehow impressing her boss with her creativity. But then she gets a typically wild Elle idea about her upcoming marriage to Emmett, the law professor she fell in love with in episode one. The idea is to invite her dog's mother to the wedding; but she has to find the mutt first, to which end she hires the best private eye in the city. Turns out, the dog is part of an animal testing program for a cosmetics firm, and they aren't about to release the dog to Elle. Elle is horrified and becomes an animal rights activist, resulting in her getting fired from her law firm.

Undaunted, she goes to Washington to fight for her cause. Simple. You just get a job with a Congresswoman, Rep. Rudd (Sally Field), get the Congresswoman to support an animal rights bill, and you're done. "Is bill writing, like, super fun or what?" Elle exclaims. Well, you know if it were simple we wouldn't have a movie. So it takes her an hour and a half of our time to get her bill through Congress. Doesn't seem worth it.

Naturally, she gets the same reception in Washington she got at Harvard for her bizarre costumes and pinheaded actions. Her fellow staff members think she's a nut case, and they're not entirely wrong. Two fellow workers are worthy of mention: Reena (Mary Lynn Rajskub), the nerdy one, and Grace (Regina King), the bossy one. Nobody on staff wants to help her get her bill passed, but she does get a lot of assistance from her apartment-building doorman, Sid (Bob Newhart), who shows her around the ins and outs of politics and the law. Being a doorman in Washington for thirty years, he's picked up all the tricks.

How does she succeed? By using some coincidental acquaintances and a purely emotional appeal to push her bill. Any relationship between what goes on in this film and what goes on in real life is purely coincidental. You see, she and Congresswoman Libby Hauser (Dana Ivey), the Chair of the committee from whom Elle needs approval to continue, are old sorority sisters; OK. And Elle's dog falls in love with the dog of another committee member, Congressman Stanford Marks (Bruce McGill), so there's another ally. The movie's ending becomes downright preposterous as Elle and all of her old sorority sisters from California and across the country (plus Elle's off-the-wall beautician friend, Paulette, again played by Jennifer Coolidge) become cheerleaders to take on the Washington establishment and try to pass the animal rights bill.

I suppose if one had never seen the first "Legally Blonde" movie this second installment wouldn't be half bad. But it's the comparison to the first film that exasperates a person, knowing how much better a role model Elle could have been to underachievers everywhere. Instead, the film takes the low road, going for easy laughs at easy targets and easy issues. It just annoyed me.

The picture is presented in a common 1.74:1 anamorphic widescreen that displays the image clearly and cleanly. There are a few moiré effects, jittery lines here and there, to distract the eye and some softness in the particulars of delineation, but it's not much. Colors are bright yet natural, and contrasts are well highlighted. It's good video that will find no fault from most viewers.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 is typical of most modern motion pictures, with good, though not spectacular, dynamics and frequency range. What will probably strike most listeners is the amount of subtle aural detail there is in the surrounds, like birds in the distance, crowd noises, voices, doors opening or closing, and musical ambience. This is not the surround sound you'd find in an action blockbuster, but it is effective in rendering realistic portraits of real places.

There's a decent assortment of bonus materials accompanying the movie, although nothing you'd probably want to visit more than once. There's an audio commentary with cast members Jennifer Coolidge, Jessica Caufield, and Alanna Ubach. There are seven deleted scenes. There's a two-minute gag reel. There's a twenty-two minute, behind-the-scenes promotional featurette, "Blonde Ambition." There's a music video, "We Can," with LeAnn Rimes. There's an interactive quiz game, "Welcome to Delta Nu." And there are thirty-two scene selections, theatrical trailers for this film and other MGM DVD releases, and a photo gallery. English, French, and Spanish are the options for spoken languages and subtitles; and the keep case includes a handy booklet insert of trivia information, cast names, and chapter stops.

Parting Shots:
I said of the first "Legally Blonde" that the "film may be giddy fluff on the outside, but it's got an undoubted heart beating on the inside." Unfortunately, "Legal Blonde 2" is simply giddy fluff and has no heart beating anywhere. Thanks to Ms. Witherspoon one cannot actually hate the film, but it's so dim-witted and predictable, it's hard to care about it one way or the other. It's not funny enough for comedy, not serious enough for drama, and not pointed enough for social or political criticism. It's so, like, you know, pink.


Film Value