Fri, Jul 25, 2003 - Page 20 News List

More frothy fun n' frolics

The second `Legally Blonde' is more laughable than the first

By Elvis Mitchell  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Reese Witherspoon, left, stars again in Legally Blonde.


Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde, the sequel to 2001's Legally Blonde, is a movie for people who somehow managed to miss the point of the first picture, itself the kind of material that put the "b" in subtle, as the old joke goes. And old jokes are really what Blonde 2 is all about. Reese Witherspoon returns as Elle Woods, the indefatigable sprig of a girl whose disposition is as sunshiny as her hair. Previously she conquered Harvard Law School, a place in need of a new world order, and in the nominal sequel she takes on the moribund legislative branch.

Elle is working as an aide to Representative Rudd (Sally Field), a fellow Delta Nu. Probably the funniest thing in the picture is seeing these Oscar-size forces of nature: Witherspoon, the most determined actress of the 21st century, is posed, pert nose to nose, with Field, whose blurted "You really like me" sentiment disguised a will equally as steely. But the director, Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, and the writer, Kate Kondell, don't make enough of this matchup.

Instead Blonde 2 is repetitive, going over the same material as the first film. The snappy, happy Elle is ridiculed by Rudd's worldly and world-weary aides, especially the tough, crude Grace (Regina King). So she has to wear them down, win them over yet still find time to get an anti-animal-cruelty bill passed and marry her fiance, Emmett (Luke Wilson, who's spending so much time standing behind do-it-themselves superwomen this summer that he seems to be auditioning for the part of Steve Trevor in a future version of Wonder Woman).

There are a few good jokes about tolerance toward gays: Elle's doggie Bruiser Woods (Moondoggie) comes out of the doghouse, so to speak. Moondoggie is as expressive this time around as he was in the predecessor and gets his laughs. The movie assumes not only that Elle did not learn anything from the first movie, but that its lessons of perseverance and open-mindedness were lost on the audience, too; that we're apparently suffering the same short-term memory loss that afflicted Guy Pearce in Memento.

Film Notes

LEGALLY BLONDE 2: Red White and Blonde

Directed by: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld

Starring: Reese Witherspoon (Elle Woods), Sally Field (Representative Rudd), Regina King (Grace Rossiter), Jennifer Coolidge (Paulette Parcelle), Bob Newhart (Sid Post) Luke Wilson (Emmett Richmond) and Moondoggie (Bruiser)

Running time: 95 minutes

Taiwan Release: today

After suffering the insults of Rudd's staff, not to mention running into a few walls trying to use the old-fashioned methods of getting a bill passed, Elle coos, "I'm gonna do it the Elle Woods way." This means convening her posse, allowing room for the return of Jennifer Coolidge at her ditziest and rooting around for advantages and inside tracks that are a lot more similar to old-school lobbying than this movie would have us believe. Eventually Elle has to remind those whom she presumed to be on her side of their (blond) roots.

This state of willfulness makes Elle look less than bright, rather than merely shallow, a distinction that was made rather neatly the first time around as well as the neat goof that blondes were a maligned minority. The sequel makes the mild variations on a theme so obvious that this is as much a movie for kids as anything else, despite the hoochy-rific dance number in the Senate that's meant to galvanize Congress into supporting Elle's anti-cruelty amendment, which she calls Bruiser's bill.

Elle is still a bonbon wrapped in pink, but she goes so far into demented variations on that pastel that she seems to be part of a renegade faction of the Mary Kay organization. The costume designer Sophie de Rakoff Carbonell gives Elle one great ensemble -- a bubble-yum-hued suit and pillbox hat that could've been lifted from a Jackie Kennedy photo spread in Look magazine. But this time Elle is crassly stylized instead of stylish; the Elle Woods of the first film would've taken her aside to provide a few sisterly fashion tips.

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