Legally Blonde (2001) Movie Review

Legally Blonde is a Fish out of Water movie, and as such it requires you to swallow its premise without batting an eyebrow. Anyone who has seen the movie’s trailers and went into the theater expecting something highbrow or “deep” is in serious need of a mental adjustment. So does the film work as a Fish out of Water movie? Yes and no.

Legally Blonde stars Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, the embodiment of the California Valley Girl — she’s rich, fashion conscience, and extremely popular with her equally rich and fashion conscience sorority sisters. When her boyfriend, Warner (Matthew Davis) dumps her in favor of Harvard Law School and a rich Eastern girl from a “good family”, Elle decides the best way to win him back is to attend Harvard herself and show him she’s good enough to be Mrs. Warner. At Harvard, Elle makes a series of wrong impressions on her teachers and fellow students, but eventually starts to win them over. What, did you think she wouldn’t?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, shall we? Legally Blonde is a silly little comedy that relies heavily on the likeability of its star. Luckily the filmmakers have chosen correctly in Reese Witherspoon, who walks through the entire film with a contagious smile and enough pink to drown a continent. The movie’s most effective (and funniest) sequences are at the beginning, where Elle starts her quest to get into Harvard after her boyfriend unceremoniously dumps her. The movie makes fun of the California lifestyle, including how Elle lives across the street from Aaron Spelling and got “a Coppola” to direct her Harvard admittance video, where a bikini-clad Elle showcases her, er, assets. The quick glimpses of her parents are also funny, as well as life at her oh-so-California sorority house and its fashion-minded sisters.

Once Elle arrives in Harvard in Act Two, the movie throws a couple of laughs at us, but overall the laughs get left behind in California. The film then takes a nosedive in Act Three, when Elle is chosen as an intern for one of her professor, who is currently defending a high-powered fitness guru accused of murder. There are some entertaining scenes between Elle and the woman who does her manicures, but when the movie shifts back to the murder case the film lags. The trial, of course, is a silly mockery of real trials, but that was to be expected. I was somewhat disappointed that instead of relying on her brains (and thus proving everyone wrong about her intelligence) to win the case, Elle had to rely on her Valley Girl IQ to save the day. It’s all very silly and uninspired stuff.

Reese Witherspoon is great in the part, and is entirely likeable throughout. Her supporting cast, on the other hand, doesn’t fare quite as well. As the ex-boyfriend Matthew Davis is a block of boredom and besides being somewhat handsome, has little personality. Selma Blair plays Vivian, the Eastern girl and Warner’s new fianc’e. Blair has been trapped in the Evil Preppy Girl role lately, and it’s too bad because she’s a good actress and needs better material. I suppose a role in a big budget film pays the bills and lets her do more arty films. Luke Wilson, one third of the Wilson trio, plays Emmett, the Nice Guy who eventually wins Elle over. Reese and Wilson have zero chemistry and their “budding romance” seems perpetually stuck in the awkward stage.

Legally Blonde is a Hollywood comedy with a Valley Girl in favor of the Fish that is out of water. It’s funny in spots (mostly in the beginning) but drags throughout much of the Third Act, which throws a couple of (extremely awkward) twists at us involving Vivian and the law professor. Whatever ideas the filmmakers had involving Vivian and Callahan seemed out of tune, and as a result their sequences come across as…well, just awkward.

Robert Luketic (director) / Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith (screenplay)
CAST: Reese Witherspoon …. Elle Woods
Luke Wilson …. Emmett
Selma Blair …. Vivian Thelma

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