Spunk, a sense of style and just a dash of luck. That’s proven the recipe for success for the star of “LB2.” The petite performer in fact came this close to a life of total non-megahitmaking obscurity. It’s true: Trained at LA’s famous Studio Animal Services facility, Moonie-the scene stealing Chihuahua who portrays Bruiser in the film-was originally signed years ago as a double for the Taco Bell mascot Gidget. Unexpectedly, though, he grew to only half the size of the world’s biggest little dog and it looked as though the pup’s dreams of showbiz glory were destined to be tossed out with his poop scoopings.
According to Hollywood lore (the movie’s press kit), however, Moonie’s indefatigable spirit won so many hearts that the facility decided to help him find work elsewhere. The rest is history. A music video with Cher led to parts first on NBC’s “Providence” and “Three Sisters” then later to the surprise 2001 smash Legally Blonde and now its sequel. Today, at the age of five, Moonie is regarded within the industry as one of its most versatile and gifted quadrupeds.
It’s a recipe that hasn’t served Reese Witherspoon too badly either. A handful of years ago the young actress appeared destined for mid-level Gen X semistardom of the sort for which her Cruel Intentions costars have had to settle. But then along came a little film called Election. Witherspoon earned a Best Actress award from the National Society of Film Critics and a Golden Globe nod for her performance as a spunky, immaculately clad and borderline ruthless candidate for her high school class presidency.
In Legally Blonde, she dumbed things down and dressed things up playing a fashion-happy ditz who calls upon her vast reserves of spunk to earn a degree from Harvard Law. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was cuckoo for this one too, nominating Witherspoon for Best Actress and the color coordinated comedy itself for Best Picture of the year.
It wasn’t until the following year that she actually did strike gold, however. The 2002 comedy Sweet Home Alabama featured the actress as, you guessed it, a spunky fashion designer who has to decide whether she belongs in the big apple or the southern backwater of her birth. The film was her first to break the $100 million mark domestically. It was so stupid even the Hollywood Foreign Press couldn’t keep a straight face long enough to nominate it for anything but it did earn its star something more valuable: the official title of America’s Sweetheart.
Not to mention her own production company, Type A Films, which-you guessed it-now brings us the sequel Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde. Witherspoon reprises the role of Elle Woods, the only corporate attorney in Boston who owns more pumps than Texaco. Moonie’s back too and plays an even more prominent role in this follow up. The idea is Witherspoon’s in the middle of planning the picture perfect wedding and, according to Martha Stewart’s official rules on the subject, one can’t plan beyond a certain point until all invitations have been sent out. That means tracking down her beloved dog’s birth mother, naturally. She hires a private detective and soon locates her in a prominent cosmetic company’s testing lab. Well, hell hath no fury like an impeccably coifed lawyer who’s Chihuahua’s mom is being used as a lab rat. So it’s off to Washington where our heroine plans to call upon her vast reserves of spunk to get animal testing outlawed.
As directed by Charles (Kissing Jessica Stein) Herman-Wurmfeld and written by Kate Kondell, the picture is a perfectly serviceable fusion of Clueless and Erin Brokovitch although I should add: Perkiness Alert! Much of the banter and many of the gags are amusing but Witherspoon cranks the perkiness to off-the-dial levels here and anyone with low tolerance for superpeppy movie do-gooders should consult a physician before viewing.
Anyone, on the other hand, who liked the original will no doubt have no problem with the “LB2.” Little of what happens is anything you haven’t seen in other Capitol Hill comedies about outsiders who beat the system against all odds. At the same time, Witherspoon is winning, the dog is cute (or is it the other way around?) and, if their dialogue doesn’t keep you laughing, it’s a safe bet their matching ensembles will.
Look up lightweight summer fun in the dictionary. This is the picture you’ll see.