Legally Blonde (2001) — Fashion ditz enters the world of lawyer stuff

“Oh, sweetheart, you don’t need law school. Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious.”

Justin’s rating: Brunettes are discriminated against too!

Justin’s review: I once dated a girl who went to Harvard University (and broke up with her in the middle of one of their courtyards). And while I have nothing personal against the school, but it’s completely bogus to think that people who attend there are miles above and beyond the intellectual capacity of your average state student. I’ve seen these kids; they play frisbee, they drink way too much, and they have to contend with Boston weather. Nobody likes snobbery based on alum heritage, and so I quickly jumped on board when I discovered that the Human Bubble Gum was going to be breaking down stereotypical barriers in the flick Legally Blonde.

Elle (Reese Witherspoon) is as vacuous and vivacious of a Beverly Hills blonde that you could ever hope to see. She’s the president of her fashion college sorority and on the fast track to marriage and the posh life. It also comes to attention in the first ten minutes of the film that she is quite clearly insane. She doesn’t just embrace the feminine side, she wallows in the pinkness of frivolity. Elle has a constant hyperactive smile, and my sweet Aunt Jemima, just look at her eyes! They’ve got this wide, I’m about to jump off a cliff and take you all with me quality to them. She even coordinates clothing with her chihuahua, for the love of all that’s pure and good in the world!

Of course, that’s the fun.

Legally Blonde is of the “ditzy chick” genre (see: Clueless, Earth Girls Are Easy) combined with the “two different worlds collide” genre (see: Bring It On, Miss Congeniality), and it makes for a trustworthy combination. Like Chex Mix! It’s appealing to see Elle reinforce her stereotype (with titters and a one-track mindlessness), then bust out of it while still retaining what keeps her unique. Again, we’ve seen it all before, dozens of times. Yet, we need the stupid-guy, stupid-girl comedy genre because it allows us to first and foremost laugh, and then to laugh at others. In the end, however, aren’t we really laughing at ourselves?

The answer is no. I don’t dress my dog up.

Elle is dumped by her aspiring lawyer boyfriend on the charge of her not being the brightest prize in the 25-cent vending machine. Elle thus follows movie logic protocol: She enlists the help of a few music montages to help her get into Harvard Law School in order to win her guy back. Like a pink tornado, she blows into town, bringing her style and flava to the stuffy world of HLS. Naturally, because we get bored with the classroom music montages quickly, Elle manages to become assigned to a murder case (as a first year intern, mind you) and utilizes her unique brand of reasoning to win the day.

Side note: Jennifer Coolidge is a shy manicurist in this one. Every time I see her in a movie, all my mind can utter is, “My goodness, is her head square.”

Nothing is at all unexpected in this movie, except for maybe the funny part. As in, I wasn’t expecting it to be so amusing. Elle’s application video alone sent me into hysterical, hyena-like laughter (and boy is that disturbing when it echoes off your apartment walls back to your ears). There are great lines, appalling fashion (not that I notice shoes or anything), and a few minor surprises that added a bit of depth to a self-shallow movie. Legally Blonde gets a couple head shakes from this reviewer, and notice the remarkable lack of dandruff? If nothing else, this movie finally made me look up and memorize the correct spelling for “chihuahua”. I is smart.

Kyle’s rating: I’ve found that blondes do have more fun, but only because they try harder

Kyle’s review: If, immediately following my first viewing of the film trailer for Legally Blonde, you had told me that I would not only enjoy but willingly rewatch Reese Witherspoon’s masterpiece, I would have laughed and then spit on you and tried to drunkenly punch you in the face. Yes, I was drunkenly sneaking around into movies I hadn’t paid for years ago when I first saw the preview for Legally Blonde. I’m not proud. But because it’s a movie about lawyers and legalities and stuff, I figured that little anecdote would provide much-needed “dramatic irony.” Cool, huh?

I don’t know that it’s the first film I’ve seen that treats the pretty and popular sorority girls in college as good (and in Witherspoon’s case, heroic), but it’s easily one of the most effective. That was what really stood out for me upon first viewing: here are the blonde, rich, shallow, semi-vapid sorority girls whose main goal is marriage to a rich future politician, and they’re the ones we’re supposed to emphasize with. Crazy!

Of course, then the plot kicks in, and we get to see the whole picture. Reese and her friends are vapid sorority girls, but once Reese gets dumped and decides to get even with and/or get back her boyfriend by following him to law school (she’s smart after all!), we see that the world-at-large does make sense. See, once Reese gets to law school and does her spirit-week super-organized sorority schtick, we see that everyone else is this universe is like us, and thinks empty-headed sorority girls are meant to be laughed at, and laughed out of law school.

Ah, but see: Reese is a good-hearted person, with a previously unknown aptitude for law. And just as she wins over a lot of her law school classmates (although her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend [Selma Blair] isn’t much of a fan at first), she wins over the audience. Will she excel at her studies, get to work with her law professor on a big case that has a secret only a sorority girl like her could be able to guess, and prove herself worthy either to reclaim her unworthy ex or the super-worthy young lawyer played by Luke Wilson? Why don’t you guess?

Anyway, the plot and story are kind of secondary to the fun. First and foremost, you’re meant to enjoy the Reese fun, and she’s at her absolute charming best anchoring this film. There’s never a doubt in your mind that she’s spend her entire life up until now as the most popular girl at her various schools, but just as impressively her strength and intelligence seem like they were always parts of her; albeit parts that she didn’t get much use out of. When you see it, you’ll know what I mean.

And you certainly should see Legally Blonde. It’s easily Reese Witherspoon’s best film as far as I’m concerned, and it’s just a good film, period. All the good characters are decent, all the evil characters are evil (in a comedic way). You’ll know who to root for, you’ll know who just needs a bit more information to see the light, and you’ll know who deserves a swift comeuppance. It definitely coasts on charm, because as it plays out it’s full of clichés and standard plot devices, but you won’t notice until well after viewing.

More importantly, it does its part in teaching the modern world that just because a hot girl is a fully-functioning member of a vapid sorority doesn’t mean that when they graduate and put their skills to use that they can’t become a lawyer or a doctor or a mad scientist. In their own words: whatever!

Didja notice?

  • Elle’s high-pitched crying during the breakup scene… first time I laughed during such a sequenc
  • All the outfits her chihuahua had (that matched her own): a Harvard sweater, collar and tie, a graduation cap
  • The sorority sister who knocks on Elle’s door is played by Kimberly McCollough, who, for many years, played the character Robin Scorpio on General Hospital. When she knocks on the door, Elle is inside her room watching “General Hospital”
  • Recognize Prof. Callahan? He’s Sidney Bristow’s hard-line father on the TV show Alias
  • Reese Witherspoon’s character wears 40 different hairstyles throughout the film.

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