I’d like to start this review by offering my apologies to my viewing partner. Granted, he didn’t see but the last 45 minutes, but he did make it in time to see the movie’s “big” musical number. Never have I seen a human being in such a state of slack-jawed disbelief, and I fear he may be scarred for life.
And believe me, I understand his pain: That production number scaled new heights in the realm of “Make it stop! Make it stop!” cinematic experiences. It’s said that Ms. Witherspoon was paid a whopping $15 million for this movie — and since she has signed the film as executive producer, I’m betting she’s in for more than that in the long run. And I think she needs to cut in those of us who slogged our way through this rehash of Legally Blonde because we had to.
There are those who find Witherspoon’s perky, giggly squeakiness irresistible. Personally, it makes me long for one of those guns designed to bring down the really big game — especially here. I wasn’t very fond of Legally Blonde — despite it being the surprise hit of summer 2001 — and even found it slightly hypocritical when it resorted to gay stereotypes for a quick laugh while preaching about not judging an air-head by her Gucci cover. Plus, the whole thing smacked of a TV sitcom padded to feature length for the big screen.
But Blonde No. 1 was a work of genius compared to the Miss Dits Goes to Washington retread thrust upon us now. And this isn’t so much a sequel as it is the same movie all over again.
In the first film, Elle Woods sashays into Harvard in order to pursue the guy (Matthew Davis) who dumped her, and only later discovers her knack for the law and a sense of personal empowerment. In the sequel, she takes off for Washington when her law firm dumps her over the issue of animal rights (a cause she’s taken up primarily to rescue her Chihuahua’s mother from an animal-testing lab) and only later discovers her knack for the political scene and a sense of personal satisfaction by doing the right thing.
In the first film, her original tormentors — her ex’s girlfriend (Selma Blair) and a hard-nosed professor (Holland Taylor) — are won over to become her staunchest allies. In the new film, the same thing happens with the jealous right-hand assistant (Regina King) of her supposed mentor, as well as a grumpy Texas congresswoman (Dana Ivey).
As in the first film, Elle’s mentor (Sally Field — yes, Sally Field) will turn out to have feet of clay. And where she cracked the case in Legally Blonde by knowing all about hair care, here she does exactly the same thing because of her knowledge about make-up. Since Elle’s already engaged to her advisor (Luke Wilson) from the first movie, this round she gets the same boost from a politically savvy doorman (Bob “I Haven’t Worked in a While” Newhart) in her building. This isn’t a new movie; it’s more like being caught in a time-loop.
Luke Wilson and Jennifer Coolidge are back on hand in their original roles. Oddly enough, they come off better than anyone, and are responsible for the movie’s biggest laugh (typically blunted by having already appeared in the trailer). This chuckle stems from Coolidge’s line — “You look like the fourth of July! It makes me want a hot dog real bad” — and Wilson’s reaction to it. Sure, the gag is phallic in nature, but it’s also a very carnivorous reference to drag into a story line about animal rights. Worse still: The gag only works at all by having Elle drop back to the level of air-headedness she evidenced at the beginning of the original film. Whatever ground Elle gained as anything but a shallow sorority queen in Blonde 1 goes right out the window here.
It’s a bit of a shock to realize that this audience-contemptuous mess was directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who made the intelligent romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein. What a sad comedown. Herman-Wurmfeld scores one neat visual (already seen in the trailer) with the image of the brightly clad Elle moving through a horde of drab gray-and-black-garbed Washingtonians coming out of the Capitol, but that’s about it.
There’s certainly the requisite amount of gooeyness on hand, plus a generic pop soundtrack (not counting the blasphemous inclusion of a bit of John Lennon’s “Power to the People”) and not an original idea or smattering of sincerity in sight. Political satire? Forget it. Witherspoon isn’t about to alienate a possible viewer with anything like that.
This may be the ultimate example of an empty-headed, disposable summer movie in which nothing explodes. At least it proves there are worse things than dumb flicks where a lot of stuff “blows up real neat.”
– reviewed by Ken Hanke