Blonde bomb: All bend, no snap

On paper, Legally Blonde was a recipe for disaster: There's like, this blonde sorority girl who's like, totally self-absorbed, but she turns the blonde jokes on their head when she proves to be like, really smart and goes to Harvard Law School and wins her first court case with a combination of brains and specialized knowledge of beauty products and stuff.

A really witty script that brought out Reese Witherspoon's best qualities made it one of the best comedies of recent years, when it might have been corny, cutesy, hokey, contrived, and sentimental.

Now along comes Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, and it's everything we were afraid the first movie would be, which makes it one of the biggest disappointments of recent years. You could say it has bend but no snap.

Elle Woods (Witherspoon) is out of school and on the verge of promotion at her first job with a prestigious law firm. She's also preparing to marry Emmett (Luke Wilson), the Mr. Right she found at Harvard.

Brace yourself for this one, because it's necessary to set the plot in motion. Elle wants to invite the biological mother of her Chihuahua, Bruiser, to the wedding, so she hires a detective to find her. Bruiser's mom is a prisoner in a lab, where she's being used for cosmetics testing. When Elle protests, it turns out the lab is owned by one of her firm's clients, and she's fired.

On the theory that you should change the law, not fight it, Ms. Woods goes to Washington as a legislative aide to Rep. Rudd (Sally Field). After all, Elle won't stand for animal abuse sitting down, as a certain Washington resident would probably say if he addressed the topic. Just like at Harvard, everyone misjudges "Capital Barbie," and Elle has to win them over one by one.

While gradually earning the respect of the office staff, Elle also has to work on some powerful committee members if "Bruiser's Bill," her law to ban animal testing in the cosmetics industry, is ever going to get to the floor. It's as easy as things can only be for Elle. First she gets the support of grouchy Texan Libby Hauser (Dana Ivey), then conservative Alabaman and NRA spokesman Stanford Marks (Bruce McGill).

She bonds with the latter over the fact they both have gay dogs (which neither ever noticed until his Rottweiler tries to mount Elle's Chihuahua). The gay dog thing was pretty funny on South Park five years ago. Hell, it's one of the funniest things in this movie, but that still doesn't make it very funny.

Despite her good start, Elle has more setbacks in store, but you know she'll triumph in the end. You didn't buy a ticket to watch her lose. That a climactic scene involves a phone tree rather than email for mobilization makes you wonder if this script hasn't been sitting around for 10 years or so.

Jennifer Coolidge, Jessica Cauffiel, Alanna Ubach, and (very briefly) Bruce Thomas are back from the first film. Selma Blair, who was said to be Elle's best friend at the end, is not. New additions include Regina King– who looks as if she'd rather be somewhere else– and Bob Newhart, who barely avoids embarrassing himself.

Oh, I laughed at an occasional line, like when Elle says, "Is bill-writing superfun or what?" but mostly I wished I was wherever King wished she was.

Director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (Kissing Jessica Stein) is the bland leading the blonde.

The best thing about Legally Blonde 2 (or maybe not) is that it made me appreciate Nathan Lane's lame Washington-set sitcom Charlie Lawrence.