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Wednesday, July 2, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Screwball instincts help this 'Blonde' have more fun

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review


***
"Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" with Reese Witherspoon, Sally Field, Regina King, Jennifer Coolidge, Bob Newhart, Luke Wilson. Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, from a screenplay by Kate Kondell. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some sex-related humor. Several theaters.

The movie equivalent of a big pink cotton-candy puff, "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" is almost exactly like its predecessor — it's a trivial but sweet-natured story of blondeness triumphing over adversity. Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon, so fair-haired she practically glows), last seen graduating from Harvard Law School, is now in Washington, D.C., crusading against animal testing and coping with mean people in need of makeovers.

At her side is Bruiser, the perky-eared Chihuahua who dresses in coordinating outfits (his little pink pillbox hat is to die for). Fiancé Emmett (Luke Wilson, phoning it in) is back home in Boston, awaiting their upcoming wedding, as is Elle's confidante/manicurist Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge). Jessica Cauffield and Alanna Ubach return as Elle's screechy sorority sisters (Cauffield is especially funny; shrieking out all her lines as if they've been held hostage in her mouth).

But for the most part, the cast and setting is new — to offset, presumably, the same old story. Sally Field plays the congresswoman who hires Elle (they're fellow Harvard alums); Regina King the mean staffer who can't believe that this blond Barbie could have anything to contribute; and Bob Newhart, stammering agreeably, a kind doorman in Elle's swanky new building.

Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who directed the pleasantly fluffy lesbian romance "Kissing Jessica Stein" last year, takes over as director, and he brings some bounce to the proceedings; "Legally Blonde 2" goes down as smoothly as ice cream in July. But there's really nothing much here; the movie tosses out a few softball messages about acceptance and individuality and believing in yourself (there's a refreshingly progressive level of gay acceptance, still unusual in a mainstream movie), then gets right back to the pink outfits and the dog jokes.

Without Witherspoon, there'd be no reason to watch this movie, but she sashays through it all with her tip-tap walk and sparkly smile. It's getting a little old to say that she's capable of better things; since her brilliant work in the little-seen "Election," she's been focusing on safe crowd-pleasers like "Sweet Home Alabama" and the original "Legally Blonde."

But the pleasures to be found in "Legally Blonde 2" are all hers. Whether tottering up the Capitol steps in a pink Jackie O suit (chirping, "Good morning, fellow public servants!"), giving "snaps" to her incredulous colleagues, or hitting precisely the right note with a line like "It's a huge biggie," she's got screwball instincts worthy of fellow blonde Carole Lombard (who also had a dizzying way with a line).

May this film go through the roof, so that Witherspoon and her production company (she was executive producer for "Legally Blonde 2") can tackle greater things next time.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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