One day, the following question will appear on film students' exam papers: "Legally Blonde: harmless rom-com or politically naïve trash that puts back feminism 35 years while requesting you sympathise with a vacant, rich-bitch bimbo? Discuss."
Imagine what your answer would be... Then apply it to Legally Blonde 2. Yes, this sequel is essentially more of the same, plucking the now-graduated Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) out of Harvard and plonking her down in Washington, DC. It's perky business as usual, Elle wading through a sea of condescension towards universal acceptance. Not only that, her rectitude betters all those around her, smoothing craggy brows and puckered lips as embittered politicians remember how they once planned to change the world. Shoot, it won't be long 'til everyone in Congress is decked out in pink and twirling Gucci handbags.
What we have here, then, is Ms Woods Goes To Washington, Witherspoon's infectious effervescence standing in for Jimmy Stewart's humble dignity, a succession of garish designer outfits replacing his threadbare suit. And it works. In places. Witness Elle attempting to find the perfect dress: ""Too Nancy. Too Hilary. Too Monica."" Or informing a bewildered Congress that they must support her bill or regret their silence - - just as she once regretted hers when she let a Beverly Hills salon sculpt her hair into a strawberry bob. Or when she ensures that all her stationery is pink...
Not that Witherspoon's the comedic star of this show. That would be Bruiser, Elle's chihuahua. Here thrust centre stage when a search for his "biological birth parents" locates Mom in a cosmetics laboratory (Elle flounces into DC to ban animal testing), he hungrily grabs the spotlight and shakes it like a squeaky toy. Think of any of the best gags and they come with fur attached... And usually involve a cocked head, a raised ear and a perfectly timed yap.
Okay, so having an overgrown rat steal the movie doesn't bode well, memories of Men In Black II floating to the surface like a bloated corpse. But Blonde 2, while hardly pedigree material, is no mongrel either. All the original cast return to lend continuity, right down to the manicurist's hunky parcel-guy boyfriend, and Sally Field's high-powered congresswoman reminds us that she's a better actress than speechmaker. We like her, we really like her.
Other elements don't engender quite the same magnanimity. A cheerleading sequence is the worst, crossing the line from bad into plain embarrassing, while Elle's round-up of the sorority sisters for a Million-Dog March is 50 giggly gals too far. It's girl power, all right, but only in the way that a squealing Cameron Diaz thrusting her arse at the camera in Full Throttle is girl power. But hey, let's not be bitchy. After all, this is just a harmless rom-com. Right?