Mark Reviews Movies


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Regina King, Jennifer Coolidge, Bruce McGill, Dana Ivey, Bob Newhart, Luke Wilson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jessica Cauffiel, Alanna Ubach, J Barton

MPAA Rating:  (for some sex-related humor)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 7/2/03

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Review by Mark Dujsik

As far as sequels go, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde is a prime example of the worst kind. Not only is it nowhere near as funny as the original, but it also betrays the formula and charm that made Legally Blonde a surprising success. The script, not surprisingly conceived and written by people who had nothing to do with the original, admittedly has a promising setup, but screenwriter Kate Kondell has a rather farfetched way of getting us started and very little idea of what to do once we're there. Reflecting the screenwriting is the filmmaking, which may be some of the most noticeably shoddy work done on a major Hollywood release in years. The whole movie looks and feels completely rushed—a fast, lazy attempt to cash in on something lucrative. A list of responsible parties must include director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld and his partners in crime editor Peter Teschner and cinematographer Elliot Davis, all of whom deliver third-rate work. Even Reese Witherspoon, who so wholly inhabited the ditzy heroine the first time around, looks a little lost from time to time.

She does what she can, though, in reprising the role of Elle Woods, now Harvard Law School graduate and up-and-comer at a prominent law firm. Her life looks set. A promotion is only an official announcement away, and her wedding to Harvard professor Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson) is shaping up to be a huge event, having booked Fenway Park for the ceremony. The invitations are of concern at the moment, and she is determined to find her Chihuahua Bruiser's mother in time to invite her. After hiring a private investigator, Elle discovers Bruiser's mom at an animal testing lab. She tries to get her firm behind the fight to free her but ends up fired as a result. Then she has a revelation: If you can't fight the law, change it. Luckily, a fellow Harvard alum is Representative Victoria Rudd (Sally Field), who instantly takes Elle as an associate and allows her the access to any resources she may need, including her less-than-impressed staff. Elle quickly learns, though, that she is out of her league and has very limited means of being heard.

The first thing one notices about the movie is the annoying, glaring pink light that radiates around Witherspoon in practically every scene. I understand the joke, but couldn't it have simply been a hint of pink? Davis doesn't seem to understand the concept of subtlety, though, as is evidenced in nearly every frame of the movie. For some strange reason, Herman-Wurmfeld and Davis have decided to shoot the movie handheld (I'll give both the benefit of the doubt that they understand how to operate a camera). The shaky photography and random zooms have no place here and only serve as irritation. It doesn't surprise me to learn that Davis was director of photography for I Am Sam, which also had a similar, equally useless visual style. The editing is marked by clumsy transitions, mismatched sound cues, and the total lack of a sense of location. Blue screen effects are used so poorly that we begin to wonder if anything other than the establishing shots was filmed in Washington, D.C. This is amateurish filmmaking, and there's no excuse for it.

The rule of sequels is to have some change. In a best case scenario, the elements of the original that work are expanded upon, and the elements that don't are eliminated. We can't really talk in those terms here, because the very dramatic core of the concept has been changed. Elle is still out of place and out of her league, but the point of the first movie was that she adapted to her environment using an unlikely intelligence and while still maintaining her quirks. This time around, the environment adjusts to suit her. By the time she comes to her final speech, we realize she hasn't learned anything—she hasn't moved past where she started—but those around her accept this and go along for the ride. The original had sensible people surrounding Elle, but Kondell errs in making a few of the secondary characters foolish. There's a scene in which Elle presents her bill to a committee, only to have one congresswoman break down crying and another to reveal that his dog is gay. The imbalance overpowers Elle's character. There's also the inclusion of another dance sequence, which was the original's low point. It's the same here, only exponentially lower because of the quality of the rest of the movie. That and it involves interns and horny politicians. Enough said.

And shouldn't we care about the bill she's trying to pass? After a while, the whole issue of animal testing becomes absolutely trivial, and that's not good. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde even wastes Sally Field and Bob Newhart, and if Witherspoon is going to continue along her path as a star, it would be nice for her to take on some off-beat projects again, just so we can be reminded what a talented actress she is. Even the original film gave us a view of that, but the line between Legally Blonde and its sequel is even broader than that. The first film grew on you; this one pushes you away.

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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