In Chinese, the word for "crisis" doubles as the word for "opportunity." In Hollywood, this same synthesis is expressed by the word "sequel." Having painted themselves into a corner with the surprise hit Legally Blonde, the makers of Legally Blonde 2 have shrewdly devised to change a few minor details in the original script and hope nobody notices or cares. Future generations will be able to choose between alternate versions, like the A and B endings of 1985's Clue. Once again eking sunny charisma from her usual demented brio, Reese Witherspoon reprises her role as the Bel-Air sorority queen turned unlikely Harvard Law School star, this time with another round of button-up snobs to amaze with her legal prowess. Most of the major and minor characters are back: Jennifer Coolidge as her white-trash, undersexed manicurist; Luke Wilson, the summer's designated bland good guy, as her faithful boyfriend; Jessica Cauffiel and Alanna Ubach as her ditzy Delta Nu sisters; and her adorable Chihuahua, Bruiser. Though newcomers to the cast, Sally Field and Regina King fill out the vacant roles of unscrupulous mentor and uptight-rival-who-first-spurns-her-but-comes-around-in-time-to-help-win-the-big-case, respectively. After getting fired from a Boston law firm for protesting a client's cosmetics testing on animals, Witherspoon takes the cause to Washington, where she works on drafting a testing ban as a legislative aide for congresswoman Field. Decked out in an all-pink Jackie O. ensemble with a pillbox hat and Barbie accessories, Witherspoon stands out in the prim, black-and-blue-suited uniformity of the Capitol, but her bubbly persistence and unconventional methods pay off in all the expected ways. Meanwhile, she even has time to plan for a dream wedding in Fenway Park. Piling one formula on top of another, Legally Blonde 2 cleverly recasts Mr. Smith Goes To Washington with Witherspoon as the pure-hearted Jimmy Stewart type, teaching the glad-handing powers-that-be that materialistic flakes are not to be underestimated. ("I'm just a simple, small-town girl from Bel-Air," she claims.) Couching the whole story in a celebrity cause, Witherspoon's quest to reunite Bruiser with her mother and end cosmetic cruelty feels like a minor subplot that hijacks the movie, prompting countless dog reaction shots, the last vestige of the desperate comedy. A hugely gifted actress in need of a career makeover, Witherspoon has long since mastered the role of brassy overachiever, and her enthusiasm carries musty gags that aren't worthy of her talents. If her adoring public doesn't mind paying for the same movie twice, Legally Blonde 2 stands to leave her star power unquestioned.