Dumb Blonde

Someone, please, get Reese Witherspoon to shut up.

ABC-TV has penciled into its 2004 schedule a series based upon the 2001 film Legally Blonde, for which a pilot has been made starring someone named Jennifer Hall in the Reese Witherspoon role of Elle Woods, the pretty-dumb-in-pink sorority girl-turned-whip-smart-attorney. MGM, which owns the franchise, shot a two-hour pilot for the show: If the show isn't picked up, at least the studio will recoup its investment by airing it as a TV movie. This seems a bit redundant and compels one to ask: Was the original film not itself a pilot, as thin and predictable and cloying as anything else airing at 8 p.m. on network television? Certainly its cheerless and cynical successor, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, would suggest as much; it plays like a second episode of an ongoing series in which characters retrace familiar footsteps, showing far less interest and enthusiasm the second time around.

By the end of the first film -- familiar to anyone who's turned on a movie channel during the last 24 hours -- dingbat Elle had turned into a serious girl, saying sober and sincere things; she had grown out of her pink togs -- her baby clothes -- and emerged into the adult world as a thoughtful woman capable of more than good, dumb luck. However you come down on Legally Blonde, whether as enjoyable escapist fluff or just one more Hollywood comedy cajoling fake laughs from an eager audience, at least it made sense: It had a tangle-free narrative thread you could follow, characters you could like and cheer for and feel for, and situations not entirely implausible and fairy-tale. And Elle, well, she was just swell as the naïf smarter than anyone else in the courtroom.

Either we were seriously misled by the final scene of Legally Blonde, or the makers of the sequel -- including director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who also made the TV pilot -- have chosen to disregard Elle's evolution altogether. LB2 doesn't pick up where we left off; it leaves out what we picked up.

LB2, in which Elle goes to Washington to stop cosmetics testing on animals after she discovers the mother of Bruiser, her "Chihuahua-American," in a testing lab, finds Witherspoon just as vapid and vacant as she was at the beginning of the first film. We only know she's a "brilliant legal mind" because others tell us; we're shown no scene that does her justice, offered no argument in her defense. She's far more intent on planning her marriage to Emmett (Luke Wilson) and hanging out with her sorority sisters.

To damn a picture such as this for being illogical is to curse the sky for being blue; what would be the point? There are myriad inconsistencies and plot holes as large as Grand Canyons, as well as scenes so ludicrous that they'll drop your jaw to the theater's sticky floor. To puzzle or fuss over them for even a second would be to give them more thought than writers Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake and Kate Kondell brought to the script meeting. Yet no one is more blameworthy than Witherspoon, who executive-produced the film through her production company. She could make better films; instead, she strolls up to the audience standing in line at the ATM machine and demands that we fork it over, or else.