Legally Blonde

Movie Information

Genre: Comedy
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber
Rated: PG-13

Well, what do you expect from a director whose only other credential is a short film bearing the title Titsiana Booberini? (Like I could make that up if I tried?) Here’s yet another drop down the mineshaft of modern film comedy. The title says it all and then some, but the filmmakers seemed to think that the perky Reese Witherspoon (Little Nicky) would magically transform this boringly predictable overgrown sitcom rehash of Clueless into something worth having. She tries. I’ll give her that. Sometimes, in fact, she’s very trying. But nothing can pull this film out of the morass that always results from a one-joke premise that’s fleshed out with clichés every two or three minutes. The plot: Pretty sorority queen Elle Wood (Witherspoon) gets dumped by her ambitious boyfriend (Matthew Davis, Pearl Harbor), who wants someone smarter and more “presentable” than Elle. So in the realism-drenched manner peculiar to this sort of film, Elle applies to Harvard Law School. Non-surprise number one: She gets in. Non-surprise number two: She doesn’t fit in. Non-surprise number three: She turns out to have a knack for the law, is really smart after all and earns the respect of her peers. Other non-surprises surface along the way, but that’s a fair barometer of the film’s TV Movie of the Week Approach. (Note to filmmakers: Shooting your movie in Panavision and peppering it with more “strong language” and innuendo than broadcast TV allows does not fool anyone into thinking it’s significantly more than a bigger, longer sitcom.) As a bubble-headed summer teen flick, Legally Blonde might barely pass muster, even with its questionable production values and slipshod technical side (the film contains more bad lighting than the law allows and boasts one of the most lamentable jobs of overdubbing in recent memory). A few of the gags are fairly funny and predictability can go down nicely on a mindless summer day, though I’m not at all sure that the film may not cause a measurable drop in the viewer’s I.Q. Unfortunately, Legally Blonde is of the opinion that is has a Message. And to some degree, it does try to put forth the idea that just because a person is blonde and pretty and her idea of doing something important is talking Cameron Diaz “out of buying this truly heinous angora sweater” doesn’t mean she isn’t a sincere, intelligent, wonderful person. Except for the last, I can buy that as a pretty good message to broadcast to the film’s target audience. But there’s a problem here: The film goes out of its way to debunk stereotyping, but does so by playing our heroine off other stereotypes. The film brims with snobbish easterners (is the West Coast’s inferiority complex showing?), no-brain moneyed kids, a humorless militant lesbian, etc. Naturally, Elle sets them all to rights before the film’s end. The film’s single funniest sequence — and, yes, I admit it is very funny and I won’t spoil it by detailing it here — is grounded in some of the hoariest gay stereotypes imaginable. The gag in question isn’t offensive in itself. It becomes offensive in the context of the film’s thematic preoccupation, which suddenly stands revealed as utter hypocrisy. I guess in the world of Legally Blonde, it’s OK to judge some books by their covers.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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