Legally Blonde
directed by Robert Luketic
(MGM, 2001)

Yes, yes, we all know it's really harder for the rest of us to get into Harvard Law School than it is for Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. And we all know Boston's weather is a bit different from Los Angeles', a bit more cold and rainy than it is in Legally Blonde. And we know that dorm rooms don't come big enough for a bed and a treadmill, that most law school students aren't out shopping for Prada shoes, that people aren't walking around campus with 6-carat Harry Winston engagement rings on their fingers unless they arrive on that campus with their own bodyguards.

But Legally Blonde is a charmed movie about the (usually) charmed life of Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon). To ask her to live by the same laws of physics as the rest of us would rob Legally Blonde of its sparkle.

Warner Huntington III sees the sparkle, but it's not enough. As the scion of a wealthy East Coast family, he dumps his girlfriend, sorority queen Elle, because he's headed to Harvard Law and needs a "serious" girlfriend. "I need a Jackie, not a Marilyn," he tells the aghast Elle.

Dumped but not completely down, Elle decides she'll go to Harvard, too. I mean, like, how hard could it be to get in?

Bowled over by her video application -- and accepting of LSAT scores that aren't completely embarrassing -- not to mention her 4.0 GPA in her major (fashion), Harvard gets more than it bargains for.

Initially, of course, it looks like Harvard got much, much less than it bargained for. Elle doesn't prepare for class, doesn't study her legal terminology and is distracted by the appearance of Warner's new fiancee, Vivian (Selma Blair, Cruel Intentions). She's humiliated in class, scorned by her classmates. Her only friend is the manicurist, Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge, Best in Show), she runs to for solace.

Something finally clicks; her need to win Warner back, dud though he is, drives Elle to -- gasp! -- study. She wins a coveted internship with one of the professors, and gets assigned to help defend a well-known exercise guru from murder charges.

Of course, it's unlikely first-year law students would be put in this position. It's unlikely her classmates would change their opinions of her as quickly as they do. It's unlikely ... well, you get the idea.

But Legally Blonde isn't meant to be a 21st-century version of The Paper Chase. You want a realistic law school environment, look elsewhere. This flick is all about Elle, her designer duds, her love of manicures, her sunny nature and her "growth" as a real person.

There are some gaping plot holes, and its tendency to fit everyone into a stereotype -- the geeky classmate, the militant lesbian, the good-hearted blue-collar guy -- has you waiting for the inevitable smarmy professor. Don't worry: he shows up.

But over its 96 minutes, Legally Blonde does what it sets out to do: create a cheerful little world for Reese Witherspoon to shine on.

[ by Jen Kopf ]
Rambles: 15 February 2002

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