Legally Blonde 2:Red, White & Blonde
Astonishingly stupid and entirely unnecessary sequel that forgets to include the laughs.
Great Mysteries of Our Time No.1: How did Reese Witherspoon become such a big star? Or perhaps more aptly: How did Reese Witherspoon become such a big comedy star? Because if it's on the strength of Sweet Home Alabama and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, then I'm a six year old girl (which I'm not, though since there are no pictures of me on the site, you'll have to take my word for it). I'm putting my money on some sort of voodoo. Or possibly freemasonry. It certainly isn't because of the funniness of these two movies, which are quite appallingly lacking in humour. Hmmm? definitely voodoo, methinks.
Red, White & Blonde is the sequel to 2001's well-received, and genuinely funny, Legally Blonde, the film which really set Witherspoon off on her rise to superstardom. It didn't, however, require or merit a sequel. Few films do. In fact, the only good reasons for making a sequel of any movie are because: a) you have a pairing that work well together, and that audiences would like to see more of - witness Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon series; or b) there is still a story to be told - witness The Matrix movies and, of course, Star Wars. Anything else is done simply to try to cash in on the original's success. These sequels, alas, are by far the commonest, and invariably the poorest. So you can guess which of these three categories Legally Blonde 2 falls into.
Continuing the story of legal eagle Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), Legally Blonde 2 does not start off promisingly. We are shown a scrap book of snapshots of Elle's life, which quite succinctly covers the main points of the first movie. Rather than just being a recap for the audience, however, it is incorporated into the movie as a present that her friends have created for Elle's impending wedding, to fellow lawyer Emmett (a disinterested Luke Wilson, who was clearly here only for the paycheque), and this is the movie's first failing - the pictures include scenes from Legally Blonde that could not have been photographed. This is merely a warm-up, though, for the big problem. Legally Blonde 2 is very, very definitely set in 2003 (the director almost seems to have been at pains to point this out), and when we first meet Elle again, she is working in a law firm and about to be promoted. But for those who have seen the first film, you will no doubt recall that Elle will not even graduate until 2004. Couple this to the fact that her friend Paula (Jennifer Coolidge), who had only become pregnant by Elle's 2004 Graduation Ceremony, has a 3 year old child, and we have some major continuity problems.
What also seems to have been thrown by the wayside is the entire outcome of the original. Though she had a very different style from her peers, by the end of the movie Elle was a competent, intelligent and accomplished lawyer. In Legally Blonde 2 Elle seems to have lost all ability, and rather than being naive, she is now merely stupid. I say merely stupid. Astonishingly stupid, like the movie itself, may be more appropriate.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around Miss Woods' attempts to get a bill passed on Capitol Hill to outlaw all testing on animals. Having discovered that the mother of her pet rat (I am going to begin a campaign to have the Oxford English Dictionary change the definition of Chihuahua from canine to rodent), who she wants, obviously, to invite to her and Emmett's wedding (I shit you not - this is the level this whole film operates at) is incarcerated in a laboratory owned by C'est Magnifique Corporation, Elle leaves her law firm and heads for Washington DC to work as an aide for Boston Congresswoman Victoria Rudd (Sally Field). Here, she hopes to be able to get her bill, submitted on pink paper and titled 'Bruiser's Bill', through committee and into Congress.
To do this she must get influential committee members on her side and it is here that the film descends from comedy into farce. Disregarding the message of the first movie, that you shouldn't judge by appearances, Elle returns to full-on bimbo mode. Rather than using her fine intellect and inter-personal nous, Elle manages to get two representatives on her side through a combination of luck, scented pink dog-poo bags and homosexual canine relations (no, really). Having unsuccessfully levied formidable Texas Congresswoman Libby Hauser (Dana Ivey), Elle follows her to a beauty salon where she discovers that she and the congresswoman are members of the same sorority (convenient, huh?). One down, one to go.
Elle must also impress Alabama Republican Stanford Marks (Bruce McGill) of the merits of her case, which becomes so much easier for her to do after Elle's own Bruiser and Marks' rottweiler Leslie indulge in a spot of man on man frolicking. With these two Representatives on her side, Elle takes her case to committee only for it to be sabotaged at the last minute by her own sponsor, Victoria Rudd.
The rest of the movie concerns Elle's efforts (with help from a curiously well-informed hotel doorman) to get the bill into Congress through another route, while battling Rudd's attempts to undermine her and her colleagues' attempts to ostracise her. From this point the film plunges even deeper into farce, with cheerleaders on the steps of Congress, a huge cartoon-like phone and Paula offering Congresswomen haircuts in an attempt to get signatures on their discharge petition. By now your intelligence will have been so insulted it will be in a huff for a week.
Needless to say, Elle is victorious in the end, and her bill becomes law. However, the facts of the bill are entirely glossed over - Elle seems to be campaigning on the 'All Vivisection Is Bad' ticket, and the film is far too light and fluffy to delve into the ethics of this extremely contentious issue, particularly not the arguments in favour of allowing experimentation on animals for medical purposes. It would be interesting to see how long Elle's constitution would last should she or someone she cares about become ill and need treatment with a drug made possible only with the use of research on animal subjects. But then if you were expecting depth, satire or a look into the political machinations of US politics, you've gone to the wrong movie.
Witherspoon plays the role of Elle Woods much as she did in Legally Blonde, but this time the vapidity of her character isn't merely a misconception. Though last time round we rooted for Elle, this time you most probably won't care or, in my case at least, get so annoyed by her astounding callowness that you will find yourself hoping for a crazed gunman to appear and put her out of our misery. Even her use of her encyclopaedic knowledge of all things fashion-related to help her out, which was charming in Legally Blonde, is tired and downright annoying here. Rather than developing the character, as in the first one, Elle remains the same throughout, much to the film's deficit.
Taking up the directorial reins from Robert Luketic, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld has undone (and most probably entirely ignored) all the work of Legally Blonde and removed all of the humour too. In its place he has created a film in which blondes are dumb, but teaches us that if they are charming enough they will be able to change the law of the land. This does not seem like a good lesson. Much blame for this can surely be apportioned to Reese Witherspoon, though, as since this film wouldn't have been able to be made without her, she surely was in a position to affect the storyline. Still, she was most probably there for the paycheque, as was the below-par Sally Field.
To damn it with faint praise, it's funnier than Sweet Home Alabama, because I did actually laugh, but it's a piss-poor effort that could have been so much better. As such, I award Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde 1 out of a possible 5 marks.
Sally Field (Victoria Rudd)
Bruce McGill (Stanford Marks)
Dana Ivey (Libby Hauser)
Regina King (Grace Rossiter)
Jennifer Coolidge (Paula Bonafonte)