Someone, please get Reese Witherspoon to shut up.

Dumb Blonde 

Someone, please get Reese Witherspoon to shut up.

ABC has penciled into its 2004 schedule a series based on the 2001 film Legally Blonde, for which a pilot has been shot starring someone named Jennifer Hall in the Reese Witherspoon role of Elle Woods, the pretty-dumb-in-pink sorority girl turned whip-smart attorney. But wasn't the initial film a pilot, as thin, predictable and cloying as anything else airing at 8 p.m. on network television? Certainly its cheerless, cynical successor, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, suggests as much. It plays like the second episode of a series in which characters retrace familiar footsteps with far less interest and enthusiasm.

By the end of the first film, familiar to anyone who's turned on a movie channel during the past 24 hours, dingbat Elle had grown out of her pink togs and emerged into the adult world as a thoughtful, capable woman. 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 helmed the TV pilot -- have chosen to disregard Elle's evolution altogether.

LB2, in which Elle goes to Washington, D.C., to stop cosmetics testing on animals after she finds the mother of her "Chihuahua-American" in such a lab, finds Witherspoon just as vapid as she was at the beginning of the first film. We know she's a "brilliant legal mind" only because others tell us. She's far more obsessed with planning her pending marriage to Emmett (Luke Wilson, who has spent the summer slumming it onscreen and sports one more embarrassed grin), and she still hangs out with sorority sisters Margot and Serena (Jessica Cauffiel and Alanna Ubach, respectively), who look as though they've become hookers.

There are plot holes as large as the Grand Canyon, chief among them how Elle goes from being an unemployed lawyer in one scene to a legislative aide to Sally Field's congresswoman in the next, and why Field suddenly becomes a betraying bitch. And there are scenes so ludicrous they will drop your jaw to the theater's sticky floor, including a dance number on the steps of the House of Representatives. To puzzle over them for even a second would be to give them more thought than writers Eve Ahlert, Dennis Drake and Kate Kondell brought to the script.

Yet no one is more blameworthy than Witherspoon, who executive-produced the film. With her charm and newfound clout, she could make better films. Instead, she treats the audience like an ATM.

Elle gives three speeches insisting that one person can say more than a crowd. She sets out to prove it, and if I can get Witherspoon's voice out of my head by July 7, I will consider it a minor miracle.

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