Director: Robert Luketic
Cast: Resse Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber, Ali Larter
MPAA Rating: (for language and sexual references)
Running Time: 1:36
Release Date: 7/13/01
Review by Mark Dujsik
You have to appreciate a movie whose title essentially sums up the whole thing. In Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon plays a blonde who ends up at Harvard law school. If you think you’ve got the whole movie figured out from this scenario, you may be surprised to find out your preconceptions are only half-right. This isn’t a dumb comedy; it has a certain amount of intelligence to it. It’s at least smart enough not to make Elle Woods, the Witherspoon character, stupid—just ditzy. It also has the advantage of having Witherspoon in the lead role. No matter what her character says or does, she is always charming.
Elle is a student and sorority sister at CULA. She has been dating Warren Huntignton III (Matthew Davis), and the beginning of the movie has her preparing for a big night. She’s sure Warren will propose to her tonight. However, at dinner, Warren states his desire to become a Senator and dumps Elle ("I need a Jackie, not a Marilyn."). Witherspoon’s reaction is great. She tries to hide her emotions in fear of embarrassing them, but she’ll occasionally let out a loud sob that gains everyone’s attention. Warren is on his way to Harvard for law school, and during their split, Elle realizes what she needs to do to get him back. She also needs to go to Harvard. After some major studying and preparation, she actually gets accepted. Warren is, of course, shocked to discover her appearance, and after a bad first class, Elle is even more shocked to discover that Warren is engaged to an old girlfriend, Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair).
Will Elle start to take law school seriously? Will she try to get Warren back? Will the opportunity for her to shine arise? Of course these things will happen, but there are actually a few surprises along the way. Elle and Vivian’s relationship takes an unexpected turn. The girls from home don’t arrive to shake things up (at least for a while). And most importantly, Elle is actually smart. Well, at least when it comes to hair treatment and fashion. But still, Elle is never dumbed down, and she never once comes across as fake or annoying.
Some of the material here is throw-away. There’s an entire subplot involving a manicurist and a delivery man that seems thrown in to extend the running time. The scenes involving the subplot range from generic and predictable (a custody battle over a dog and a nose injury from flirting) to confusing and unnecessary (particularly the "bend and snap" dance sequence). The courtroom scenes are funny, and they stay true to Elle’s character. I liked how she outs a witness from his observation about designer shoes (prompting the biggest laugh in the movie). Essentially, this is Witherspoon’s movie. She’s charming and funny and stays consistent with her character while never going over the top with her shortcomings. They could have been played for easy laughs, and I appreciate the movie’s restraint.
I’m surprised how much the movie grew on me. It starts off like a Clueless rehash, but then once Elle gets to Harvard, it actually gets funny in its own way. It’s harmless, amusing, and semi-smart entertainment, and that’s far better than most of the comedies around.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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