A blonde sorority girl is dumped by her boyfriend and then decides to follow him to law school to win him back
The Bottom Line
Reese Witherspoon’s charm will win you over, even if the script doesn’t quite hold up
The Full Review
Several years ago, while flipping though cable channels late one night I settled upon a movie called Freeway about a teenage girl who, after her car had broken down, had unknowingly gotten picked up by a serial killer played by Kiefer Sutherland. What kept from changing channels was the terrific performance by the charismatic young lead actress, who I would later learn was named Reese Witherspoon.
In subsequent years, Ms. Witherspoon has been busy building one of the more diverse film careers of any of the young actors today. While she has appeared in such standard teen fare as Overnight Delivery and Cruel Intentions, she has also demonstrated a willingness to veer from the pack as with her roles in Pleasantville, American Psycho and Election, perhaps the smartest comedy and one of the most underrated films of 1999.
In her latest film, Legally Blonde, Reese pours on the charm as Elle Woods, a blonde sorority queen who applies to Harvard Law School in a desperate attempt to convince her boyfriend that she is the “right type of girl” for him. Although screenwriter Karen McCullah Lutz’s silly script is engaging enough to keep the audience from wishing they had rented Clueless for the hundredth time instead of running out to see this movie, it is Reese Witherspoon’s hilarious performance that makes it truly worth their while. Elle lives her life freely guided by the pages of women’s fashion magazines. She is Cosmo girl incarnate. And while this has earned Elle the admiration of her sorority sisters, beyond the confines of her LA college campus this glossy exterior is easily mistaken for simple mindedness and naiveté. But Elle is as smart as they come and her supreme self-confidence leaves her virtually immune to the scorn and ridicule cast upon her as she attempts to carry out the zany plan to win back the man of her dreams.
In addition to Reese Witherspoon’s irresistible performance, Luke Wilson (Charlie’s Angels, Rushmore, Home Fries) is fine as a Harvard professor’s associate who is among the few to “believe” in Elle. Ali Larter (Final Destination, Varsity Blues) is well cast as a “trophy wife” suspected of murdering her husband. And veteran actors Victor Garber (Titanic, Alias) and Holland Taylor (The Truman Show, To Die For) add a bit of gravitas to the film in their roles as Harvard professors. On the other hand, Selma Blair (Cruel Intentions, Down to You) is utterly lifeless (even if somewhat intentionally) in her role as Elle’s bitchy adversary at Harvard.
Some highly amusing scenes at Elle’s Delta Nu sorority house, which could double as a Fun House ride at the Cosmo amusement park.
Ditto for the scenes when Elle first enters Harvard law – particularly notable are several hysterical classroom scenes
A scene in which the stuffy Harvard admissions board view a stylish and comical video that Elle produced and submitted as her personal essay
A brief, but nonetheless highly entertaining, exchange between Elle and her parents regarding Elle’s decision to apply to law school.
The superfluous pet dog that accompanies Elle nearly everywhere she goes
A ridiculous, out of place and entirely unfunny dance number that takes place in a nail salon that Elle frequents.