Legally Blonde 2 (PG)
In a summer flooded with sequels some films are not going to fare as well as others. Legally Blonde 2 falls squarely into that category.
A follow-up to its bright and sparky 2001 predecessor this film commits the unforgivable sin of taking ditzy blonde heroine Elle Woods out of the fluffy pink sorority milieu that made the first film so endearing and placing her in the political shark pool that is Washington DC.
Dispensing with 75 per cent of the first film’s established characters Legally Blonde 2 then relies on leading lady Reese Witherspoon to carry the weight of the picture and, while she tries valiantly, not even a star doubling as producer (and every star must have a franchise these days) can buoy up this misfire.
LB2 begins with Elle energetically planning her wedding (to Luke Wilson, a rare returning face from the first film) and setting the wheels of matrimonial excess in motion. Driven to invite all her friends to the bash she naturally decides that her faithful dog, Bruiser, must have his guests, too.
Problems arise when Elle discovers Bruiser’s mother is incarcerated in an animal-testing laboratory. Determined to free her, Elle launches into a polemic at the law firm where she works and is promptly fired. She then begins an animal welfare campaign via her new job – working for Senator Victoria Rudd (Sally Field).
But Elle’s naivete is matched by the Machiavellian ways of Capitol Hill, and she soon discovers a conscience can be a liability.
With its ludicrous, contrived plot, where Elle’s super-sharp fashion sense and ditzy charm gets results, Legally Blonde 2 is a pale shadow of its fun-filled forbear. As one character warns: “This is Washington politics, not warm, fuzzy kissing booths.”
The film compensates for its almost total lack of warmth and witty comedy with a torrent of mini speeches in which Witherspoon espouses all the latest high-class hair, skin and beauty products, winning over ancient old harpies and hawkish right-wingers with her bright-eyed bubbly charm. This is product placement sans product, and a shameless rip-off of Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Jimmy Stewart must be spinning in his grave.
And with original director Robert Luketic nowhere in sight – LB2 was helmed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld – Witherspoon has to carry the whole ill-conceived mess on her slim shoulders. There’s even a guest spot for revered US comic Bob Newhart as an all-seeing hotel doorman who helps Elle in her fight for canine justice. The poor man must really need the money to debase himself like this.
In the franchise stakes Legally Blonde 2 is a lazy moneyspinner. In the case of rising star Witherspoon it may please the studio but I venture her fans will wonder how their heroine could have become so tarnished in the journey from smash hit to sequel.
The fact that a TV series, also directed by Herman-Wurmfeld, is on the horizon tells you everything you need to know.
Star rating: **