Bob Newhart plays endearing doorman to Reese Witherspoon's ambitious blonde bimbo in Legally Blonde 2.
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde

The first Legally Blonde was a lot like its lead character. It looked so overwhelmingly stupid, the viewer expected little but eye candy; when the film turned out to have more going for it than a truck full of extraordinary wardrobe - star Reese Witherspoon's relentlessly perky performance showed that not only was she a few steps ahead of the screenplay, she expected you to be too - it was hard not to fall into a giddy crush. We swooned, and we assumed that the actress did it all herself.

But you can only be surprised by something once, and this sequel - for which none of the original filmmakers have returned - expects all its tired tricks to work again and again. Sadly, we've already seen the spunky babe stun a room full of stuffed shirts into silence and then beat them at their own game. And after we've seen it twice, we might come to the conclusion that the first script wasn't completely carried by Miss Witherspoon, if only because she can't quite do the trick with this one.

In Red, White, and Blonde, Elle Woods has settled into her new job. She is working at a powerful law firm and expecting the best on two fronts: She's about to get a big promotion, and is in the middle of planning her wedding to Emmett, her big-hearted beau who looks familiar because this is the third movie in a month where he (Luke Wilson) plays the romantic interest. The two will exchange vows on home plate at Emmett's favorite ballpark, and you kind of suspect that Elle will have the turf dyed pink for the occasion.

In planning the wedding, though, Elle hits a snag: Naturally, she wants to invite the family of her best friend, a micro-sized dog named Bruiser, but Bruiser's mom turns out to be in the clutches of a makeup-testing facility. If Elle had seen 28 Days Later, she would know that some laboratory animals shouldn't be freed, but zombie movies aren't for her. Instead, she heads to Washington to convince Congress to ban animal testing.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde
Dir. Charles Herman-Wurmfeld; writ. Kate Kondell; feat. Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Bob Newhart, Luke Wilson, Jennifer Coolidge, Regina King, Jessica Cauffiel, Alanna Ubach (PG-13)
D.C. turns out to be a stranger place than we thought. Bob Newhart is a doorman, and important Senators take their dogs on mid-day walks, picking up the poop themselves. Successful TV journalists still use reel-to-reel sound recorders, and the stations they work for air Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on a regular basis. (You would think Capra would be outlawed in a city where so many have gone to such lengths to sell their souls.) Elle finds that into every life a little rain must fall. Then the skies clear and things are looking up. Then it's cloudy again. Along the way, fuddy-duddies get makeovers.

If Blonde Mark One was a gal whose sass was unexpected, Blonde Mark Two is like the date who thinks she's being so clever she has to explain her jokes to you: The credit sequence, for instance, offers up a quick recap of the first story just in case you're feeling lost. Midway in, you might draw some conclusions of your own, deciding that the first script was better than you gave it credit for being. Sure, remembering your ex with rose-colored glasses is one of the worst mistakes you can make in the dating game. But so is trying to find a new partner with the same charms of your last one - instead of another perky blonde, maybe this summer calls for a raven-haired vixen. Or a streetwise redhead. Or a zombie movie set in a post-apocalyptic London. John DeFore
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