To recap for those who aren't familiar with the first movie: Elle plans to graduate college, marry the man of her dreams, and live happily ever after. He decides to go to Harvard Law School instead of marrying her, she fights to get into the University, makes it and eventually finds out that her dream man is a dud, also finding out that she can overcome those who want to stifle her creative and sunny outlook on life. The majority of people she meets at the famed University think she has no business being there, doesn't and can't fit in, and should leave them to their serious pursuits while she acts like…well, a blonde. In the end, her unwillingness to let them push her out causes them to change their minds about her. Okay, it wasn't exactly Shakespeare but there's a market for fluffy comedies and it really wasn't as lame as it sounds.
So, in the sequel, with Elle now an established lawyer in a well respected firm. Her marriage to Emmett (Luke Wilson in a small reprise role) about to take place and life in general looking swell with a big raise in store for her, Elle attempts to find the mother of her pet Chihuahua, for the wedding (she's a blonde, remember?). A detective she hires finds out that the dog is being used for medical research and the tree-hugging Elle sets out to use her position to rescue the animal. Her law firm represents the cosmetic company using the dog and she seeks to win the support of her senior partners in ending the use of animals in testing at the facility. Needless to say, they think she's a nut and fire her, at which time she goes to Washington to work for a female Congresswoman, in hopes of stopping animal testing everywhere.
The politicians and aides in Washington D.C. appreciate Elle's hot pink outfits, complete inexperience, and impatience about as well as those at Harvard did, forcing her to learn how things work (and get things done) the Washington way. She calls on some of her friends from the first movie (also in small roles) as well as some newly minted supporters like Sid the doorman (Bob Newhart in a stunningly weak role) and Congresswoman Rudd (Sally Field in a weak role herself) in order to change the world to make it safer for dogs everywhere (in time for her wedding). Elle applies her formula for making friends and influencing people, much like the first movie, and in the end, everyone's a winner. If it sounds like a combination of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington Meets Clueless, that's because it was. For folks that enjoyed the first movie, this is almost exactly the same movie with a slight change in setting, rarely treading new ground. Whether that's a good thing or not will depend on how much you want to see the same old characters go through the paces of an unimaginative sequel.
The acting was about what you'd expect from such a movie. The humor seemed forced and repetitive, typically due to jokes that were old the first time we heard them. The plot itself was plodding and uncovered no new territory with the direction that of a sit-com director (no slight to novice director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld but I wonder if he even tried to make this material palatable). I've heard this was the worst movie of 2003 by more than a few friends and that's really not fair (there are so many contenders for the crown) but it was definitely a stinker. Reese Witherspoon is cute and has shown some talent in the past but this probably won't be high on her resume for future roles. I'm rating it as a Skip It to anyone except for those fanatics that can't live without a Witherspoon fix but most people will want to let this one pass them by.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color. For the most part, the grain is minimal but there was a slightly soft focus at times. Further, in an artistic attempt to make Elle stand out as a breathe of fresh air, it looked like the rest of the cast and sets were deliberately shot to look dreary in order to enhance her presence (even more than the simple lighting tricks used previously and colors she wore). Overall though, it looked pretty solid with few transfer problems.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English or 2.0 English, French, and Spanish with the usual choices in subtitles (English, French, Spanish) and Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired. The vocals were usually clear and crisp as was the music but there wasn't a whole lot of separation going on. I did notice a couple moments where the sound seemed slightly hollow but they were few and far between.
Extras: The primary extra was an audio commentary by a couple of the supporting female cast. For the most part, it wasn't very interesting with the gals babbling as though they had been drinking a bit too heavily. I listened to the whole thing and found almost nothing interesting said which made me wonder why the director or Ms. Witherspoon weren't available for it. There was a pretty decent feature on the making of the movie, a music video by LeAnn Rimes, a silly quiz (if you answer questions correctly, you win a prize), a photogallery, trailers, a gag reel, and some deleted scenes. For the most part, the deleted scenes were deleted for good reason-they were horribly unfunny. Lastly, there was a paper insert that had a lot of information from scene listing to plot description to cast list and more.
Final Thoughts: This was one of those movies you'd probably be better off missing out on. As a comedy, it wasn't funny, as a romance, it wasn't romantic and as a primer on political activism, it made me appreciate all those politicians that have to deal with clueless individuals on a regular basis. The nicest thing I can say about the movie is that it didn't make me want to burn my copy of the DVD but I really can't see this one appealing to many people as a keeper. The technical qualities were good but the content sorely lacking on this one.