Hollywood comes up with strange bedfellows. It took three screenwriters to play Tinseltown matchmakers and set up the Frank Capra classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), with the hit, Legally Blonde, a somewhat smart comic fable whose moral was that you can’t dismiss the intelligence of a book because of its pink, frilly cover. The relatively learning-disabled product of this cinematic crossbreeding is Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.
It’s not that the match doesn’t make some kind of eugenic sense. Jimmy Stewart’s titular Mr. Jefferson Smith has a marvelous treasury of perseverance and intelligence that, at first, only those with true wisdom can fathom at the bottom of his innocent, wide eyes. Likewise, in Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods proved that it may take a mettle as sharp as a beautician’s scissors to create and maintain her Barbie-Doll beauty and charm — and that she could wield that mettle just as well in the classrooms of Harvard Law School and the courtroom.
The writers don’t so much marry the two movies, but cut and paste their two plot lines together like word-processing Franken-steins. They cut Jeff and his passionate cause of establishing a youth camp for boys from the plot of Mr. Smith, and paste in Elle, her co-starring chihuahua, Bruiser, and an ingenuous (and ingeniously campy) campaign to prohibit the testing of cosmetics on animals.
But the plot isn’t the problem. It could have made a good spoof. Unfortunately, like most sequel writers, the team here doesn’t seem to have much of a clue as to what gave the originals their highlights: Somewhere in the process of assembling their baby, they manage to lose most of the brains and heart of the two plot donors.
As in the first Blonde, Elle is the Versace-clad butt of her peers’ cruel jokes. But here, rather than pulling herself up by the straps of her own designer pumps, she’s led through the bill-making process by a company of unlikely allies: her doorman (Bob Newhart with his signature kindly deadpan) and a pair of representatives, one a Delta Nu sorority sister. Elle eventually resorts to dialing Delta Nu’s emergency pink phone to mobilize the rest of her sisters. The result is that Witherspoon mostly loses the opportunity to display the guts and backbone that Elle displayed in Legally Blonde — or that Stewart showed in Mr. Smith’s heroic filibuster.
The verdict? Legally Blonde 2 is dumber entertainment than the first, more fairy tale than fable, and may have done better by paying more attention to its roots.
James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.