WFTB Score: 6/20
The plot: When Elle Woods discovers that her dog Bruiser’s mother is a captive of V.E.R.S.A.C.E. – not the fashion label but an animal research lab – she sacrifices her lucrative lawyer’s job (and puts her dream wedding on hold) to go to Washington, in an attempt to put a halt to animal testing. Initially, Congress is unreceptive to her perky charms, but Ms Woods has a knack of finding useful friends in a crisis.
Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a success story. She’s a popular lawyer with prospects of promotion in a Boston law firm, with a wedding – at Fenway Park, no less – to her beloved Emmett (Luke Wilson) on the cards. However, when she draws up the wedding list there are no guests for her even more beloved Chihuahua Bruiser (Moondoggie(!)); and the results of a private eye’s digging horrify her when she discovers that Bruiser’s mom is owned by a research laboratory, who won’t give her up.
Elle takes up the case but her law firm are less than sympathetic, replacing the promotion with the sack; but ever-resourceful, she calls on a favour with sorority sister, Congresswoman Victoria Rudd (Sally Field), to join her staff in Washington. Elle’s target is no less than to introduce Bruiser’s Bill, legislation that would put a stop to animal testing, but her bubbly, overwhelmingly pink approach to life comes against a brick wall in the form of Rudd’s by-the-book Chief of Staff Grace (Regina King).
Deflated by her lack of progress, Elle is buoyed by the friendship and advice of doorman Sid Post (Bob Newhart), who walks dogs and provides leads (sorry) to influential people in Washington, including Congresswoman Libby Hauser (Dana Ivey), who wears a Delta Nu ring; and Congressman Stanford Marks (Bruce McGill), who owns a rottweiler who prefers the company of male dogs such as Bruiser. With these new friends on board Elle looks set to make progress, but under pressure to make deals (and fighting for her own survival) Victoria withdraws her support, effectively killing the bill at the Committee stage. However, if Elle can get the signatures of 218 members, the bill can be directly heard in Congress; and her Delta Nu connections, plus Paulette’s tonsorial skills, all play their part in rocking the vote.
Legally Blonde – recapped under the opening credits for the memory deficient – was undoubtedly a confection, a spun sugar film with little but the brightness of Reese Witherspoon to give it any weight at all; so it’s a real shame that instead of continuing Elle’s learning process, the sequel has her regressing into her former state of effervescent ignorance to make her way in Washington. This wouldn’t be a problem if she had fun things to do, but by and large Elle’s days in Washington are less than exciting, filled as they are with the tiresome business of Washington politics, snap cups, meetings in hairdressers, chance meetings in the park and so on.
The reason for this is that the story is so weak, promoting a gimmick from the first film (ie. Bruiser) to the driving force behind Elle’s actions. And it just doesn’t work. Not only is Elle sillier (in a negative sense) than she ever was in the first film, but she, her friends, and the people she meets act in bizarre, entirely unbelievable ways to make sure Bruiser’s Bill makes progress: Libby Hauser turns from frumpy matron to giddy schoolgirl at the sight of a ring, while Stanford Marks’ hardline Republican is turned into an emotional wreck by the mere thought of his homosexual dog.
Newhart’s Sid is the cheapest of know-all devices (he’s been doorman/dog walker for thirty years, so is an expert on political manoeuvres and a Deep Throat to boot). And the idea that Elle’s friends Margot and Serena, heading a pack of cheerleading interns, would send Congressmen and Women fighting to sign the petition is simply ludicrous – the scene is toe-curlingly embarrassing. Moreover, when the film limply winds up with Elle’s winsome speech about ‘speaking up’, the animal rights agenda takes a back seat; and despite the accolade from the American Humane Association, what has Legally Blonde 2 actually done for the animal testing debate? Still going on, is it? Thought so. You could argue that the vacuous nature of the movie actually harms the issue (keeping dogs in handbags is good for them?), but Legally Blonde 2 isn’t substantial enough for anyone to take it seriously.
For all that – and the fact that Emmett is as much a non-character as ever, wedding or no wedding – and the fact that Jennifer Coolidge’s return as Paulette is crowd-pleasing nonsense – there are very occasional glimpses of a film which isn‘t terrible. Even if she has become stupid again, Witherspoon invests Elle with her usual likeability, and Newhart is always fabulous (I’ve loved him ever since The Rescuers). Also, Mary Lynn Rajskub wrings every ounce of comedy out of her small role as staffer Reena.
But the highlights (insert your own hairstyling pun here) are all too brief in a film that feels precisely like the rushed cash-in it is. That the original was turned into a musical is a bit surprising; that there’s a straight-to-video extension of the franchise, Legally Blondes, beggars belief. Do yourself a favour and stick to the original – or why not watch something a bit more taxing, like Miss Congeniality?!