07/14/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
, Sally Field, Regina King, Jennifer Coolidge, Luke Wilson, Bob Newhart
All comedies about Capitol Hill copy Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. In that 1939 classic, James Stewart arrives in Washington, D.C., an idealist, quickly learns that politics is about compromise but stands by his beliefs and, with a rousing speech to Congress, inspires others to follow. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde
sticks to the Smith blueprint, but the delectable Witherspoon (see p. 100) makes it ever so much prettier in pink.
LB2 is a pleasant, painless comedy that whizzes by in a zippy 95 minutes. Witherspoon reprises her role as faux ditz Elle Woods, who in 2001's Legally Blonde
showed that one could be obsessed with the superficial but still graduate from Harvard Law School, solve a murder, win the heart of a cute law prof (Wilson, who also returns) and yet find time to dress Bruiser, one's beloved pet Chihuahua, in precious pink outfits that match one's own.
In the sequel, she heads to Washington to work for a congresswoman (Field). "I taught Bruiser to shop online," Elle says. "I think I can handle Congress." Handle it she does, concentrating on persuading the legislators to ban cosmetics manufacturers from testing their wares on animals. By choosing such a nontoxic issue, LB2
avoids offending anyone except animal haters, and who'll admit to belonging to that minority group? My quibble with this film and its predecessor is that Elle's concerns are as pastel as her favorite hue. Next time—and LB2's ending leaves the door open for a third chapter—try challenging Elle and her audience.
That said, Witherspoon is a wonder. She makes a character who could easily grate—there's only so much yakking about hair coloring one can stand—into an appealing, almost believable being. As her boss, a deft Field proves herself, despite her girly French manicure, tough as nails. (PG-13)
BOTTOM LINE: Gets our vote