So it's come to this. A musical adaptation of "Legally Blonde" wasn't enough; we now have a direct-to-video sequel that reimagines the franchise in the tone of a Disney Channel sitcom. Oh, my.
The film is "Legally Blondes," note the plural. Camilla and Rebecca Rosso are teenage blonde twins known to Disney fans for their recurring roles on the network's horrid series "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." Here, they play Annie and Izzy Woods, Elle's teen cousins from England (seriously); they've come to Beverly Hills to stay at Elle's mansion, shop at Rodeo Drive, ride in Hummer limos, and attend a lush private academy.
Alas, they're shunned by the school's she-beast prep queen, Tiffany (Brittany Curran, another "Suite Life" vet), when it's revealed that they're not really rich, just upper middle class, on scholarship. Which sets up a heck of a moral lesson here: being rich and having the swankiest new things aren't as important as who you are inside, and the best way we can prove it is by having two heroines obsessed with shopping and fashion and money and having things and lengthy makeover montages set in one of the richest neighborhoods in the world. This movie really is that shallow, and it never even notices.
The "Legally" part of the story kicks in about midway through, after the twins have been ostracized from the cool kids' clique and have taken up with the nerds and outcasts (who aren't really "nerdy" as much as they are "not zillionaires"). Annie - or is it Izzy? The movie barely bothers making them unique, outside of ponytail styles and shades of pink on their outfits - is framed with stealing test answers, and Izzy - or is it Annie? Should I care? - chooses to defend her sister in the school's student court system.
Never mind that neither of the girls had shown any interest in law. Instead, their entire personalities boiled down to one of them being good at tests but bad at public speaking, and another one being, um, good on trampolines, or something. (The movie offers up a five minute trampoline interlude. No kidding.) It's all vague teen comedy emptiness supporting bland jokes, generic characters, and crummy reworkings of familiar scenes from the earlier films. (Remember the bunny suit scene from the first movie? The same thing happens here, but this time it's bikinis at a formal dinner.)
Oddly, many key plot points involving the trial get skipped over, only to resurface during the closing credits as a series of deleted takes. Were the producers really so pressed for time that they felt it agreeable to edit out much of the story's logic, and if so, why bother showing it to us after the fact? Granted, even with the scenes in place, the story wouldn't hold up. (Although I suppose debating the finer points of plot logic in "Legally Blondes" is to have too many misplaced priorities.)
The whole thing's directed by Savage Steve Holland, who moved from 80s cult comedies ("Better Off Dead," "One Crazy Summer") to Nickelodeon and Disney kiddie fare with surprising ease. Often, his work for younger viewers has been quite fun, allowing him to blend his oddball sensibilities with junior high humor. (I enjoyed his corny "Shredderman" movie.) But here, he's neutered, delivering drippy, shrill, and hopelessly unfunny sitcom scenarios drained of his trademark verve. What happened?
And what should we make of the Rosso twins, who legitimately hail from the UK yet showcase awkwardly forced English accents? Their crisp, " 'ello guv'na, wut wut!" dialects sound forced and phony. Are they overdoing it, and if so, why? Do American kids need to be told that Brits only speak a certain prim-and-proper way?
Ah, no matter. The whole thing's a wash anyway, what with the cheap production values, sloppy editing, and, of course, that morally questionable screenplay, the one that tells us there's no need to be obsessed with status and money, as long as we can be obsessed with expensive things that will impress others.
Video & Audio
"Blondes" sparkles in this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. There's a crispness to the bright image (it looks just like a made-for-Disney TV production), and all that pink comes through quite nicely.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is fairly straightforward, with clear dialogue squarely up front. Music doesn't have music depth to it, again keeping to a made-for-TV sort of sound. Optional English subtitles are included.
"Thinking Pink" (13:06; 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen) is a surprisingly detailed making-of featurette, with a good amount of information - everything from how the girls were discovered to why a key scene was deleted - squeezed into a short run time.
"Double Trouble" (4:11; 1.78:1) doesn't hold up as well; it's a fluff piece about how hard it is to tell the twins apart. (They both think Johnny Depp is hot!) It's mostly a way to sell the girls as rising stars.
In "Fashion Frenzy" (5:14; 1.78:1), costume designed Cathryn Wagner explains her choices in dressing the girls. It's a pretty good example of how subtle design choices can work in as story's favor.
A pile of odds n' ends get gathered up for the "Pacific Preparatory Yearbook," an interactive index combining character profiles with behind the scenes clips. Viewers are led to "Pacific Prepbook," a MySpace/Facebook-style faux-website with pages on the twins and four other young characters; each page offers text posts from the characters, video montages of the characters, a photo gallery of each actor, and a "Video of the Week" mini-outtake taken from the set. The whole thing's a good idea, really, allowing the inclusion of smaller bits that wouldn't otherwise fit anywhere.
Curiously, instead of the "Legally Blondes" trailer, we're offered the "Marley & Me" teaser as the only preview found in the Special Features menu. Huh. Trailers for other Fox/MGM releases play as the disc loads.
The extras might be nice, but the main feature is what matters most, and it's a stinker. Skip It.