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Witherspoon sinks in all-American flop

Sometimes the quality of a motion picture can be summed up in a single line of dialogue. In 'Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde,' that line comes at roughly the halfway point in the film, as ditsy Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) and her fiancŽ, Emmett (Luke Wilson), are discussing their upcoming baseball-themed wedding.

After a remark about the Boston Red Sox, Elle looks at Emmett with deeply serious eyes and asks, 'Speaking of red socks Ñ you aren't getting cold feet, are you?'

Take a moment to think about that line. Let it rattle around in your head, clattering like the last Tic-Tac in the box. Now imagine sitting through two hours of this dull-witted, insultingly stupid pap Ñ then take a handful of Tylenol and do anything you can to stay as far, far away from this movie as physically possible.

The first 'Legally Blonde' film was a silly bit of fluff, utterly formulaic but just clever and cute enough to pull it off. Witherspoon's Elle was a ditz, but she had a brain under all that blonde and, as ridiculous as she was, you still found yourself rooting for her to succeed.

Here, however, Elle has been dumbed down to the point where she's gratingly vapid. Having landed a job with a prestigious law firm after graduating from Harvard, Elle is shocked Ñ shocked! Ñ when her bosses fire her rather than allow her to go after the animal-testing department of one of the conglomerates that the firm represents. In the blink of an eye she's off to Washington to work for animal rights under Congresswoman Victoria Rudd (Sally Field).

Arriving on Capitol Hill clad in garish Barbie pink, Elle is dismissed by her new colleagues as a flake. Which she most definitely is Ñ her first task on arriving is to hot-glue marabou feathers all over her desk and set up a bulletin board so she can plan her wedding while she's at work, all the while blathering on and on about shoes, clothes and hairstyles.

That her co-workers are rude to her is no shock Ñ the surprise is that they don't bop her on the head and stuff her in the trunk of a car.

What follows is a horrific embarrassment to all involved, including, most egregiously, Luke Wilson showing up occasionally to deliver a few lines of 'I support you, honey' before disappearing again from the plot in which he plays no part.

Witherspoon gamely tries to overcome the stench of 'Legally Blonde 2' by turning up the volume on her personal cuteness, but it only makes matters worse. The script (perpetrated by Kate Kondell, who should be barred from ever writing another screenplay Ñ by court order, if necessary) betrays a complete lack of understanding of even the most rudimentary workings of Congress while ham-fistedly recycling random characters and elements from the first film.

Rabid fans of 'Legally Blonde' may somehow convince themselves that this odious piece of celluloid dreck isn't all that bad; more discerning viewers will leave the theater wishing to put out their own eyes with salad forks.

Do yourself a favor and find something more pleasant to do this Independence Day weekend Ñ like placing your hand on a hot barbecue grill.