Legally Blonde (2001) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and sexual references
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber
Director: Robert Luketic
Screenplay: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith
Review published February 16, 2002
It's time Reese Witherspoon finally comes to terms with the fact that she could very well be the most appealing comedienne working in films today. If she were to do more comedies and a little less dramas, she might even become a bona fide superstar. Looking at her major roles in films of recent years, it's becoming apparent where her strong-suit lies. While Fear, Cruel Intentions, and Best Laid Plans might be OK diversions as thrillers, her two starring roles in comedies (Pleasantville and Election) rank among the very best in the genre within the last ten years. OK, so these films also had great writing and directing as well so it wasn't all her, but if you don't believe that she can make a comedy that much better, I hereby submit Legally Blonde as Exhibit A.
Reese stars as Elle Woods, a Los Angeles sorority girl and chipper natural blonde. She is madly in love with Warner (Davis, Pearl Harbor), the hunky most-likely-to-succeed young man in her college, and he loves her back but doesn't let that get in the way when he dumps her because she isn't exactly the type of woman that a future senator should marry if he wants to get ahead. After the break-up, Warner heads off to Harvard Law, and the determined Elle somehow works her way in the door there too, all in hopes of getting back her man. Oops, too late. Warner is already engaged to an old flame (Blair, Kill Me Later), and what's worse, the new girl loves showing her up in class and flashing her six-carat engagement ring wherever she goes. Elle has her plate full with vying to win her man while also staying in a school that settles for nothing less than excellence from their potential lawyers.
Whenever another film comes out about dumb blondes, it's obligatory that reviewers mention Clueless, so let's get it out of the way now: "CLUELESS". That said, Legally Blonde is an inferior film in almost every way, save for one important factor: Reese Witherspoon. I suppose I might as well toss in the usual "Goldie Hawn" comparisons, but I feel it's valid here. Like Goldie, Reese can carry these kinds of films with nothing more than her smile and cheery personality, and while the role seems to have been written for someone more of the blonde bombshell variety, we like Reese as Elle so much, anyone else would have been a big letdown. With not much appeal in terms of a supporting cast and a script that offers so little in the freshness department, Reese alone saves this dud from sure failure. Combine this with a director that knows a good thing when he sees it, along with a very good soundtrack, I must say I found Legally Blonde to be quite entertaining despite some serious weaknesses.
One could rightfully accuse the screenwriters of plagiarism due to the derivativeness of the proceedings, but despite overwhelming evidence Reese helps Legally Blonde win on appeal.
-- Followed by Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde and the Reese-less Legally Blondes
©2002 Vince Leo