With its premise of a pampered, ditzy girly-girl somehow making her way
into Harvard Law, _Legally_Blonde_ has been dismissed as "_Clueless_ goes to law
school." Actually, the film is more than that.
It's _Clueless_ meets _Felicity_ goes to law school.
In all seriousness, though, _Legally_Blonde_ is able to transcend its
unpromising origins due to two words: Reese Witherspoon. While the film goes
through its unsurprising paces from start to finish, Witherspoon keeps the
proceedings so perkily likable that one will be too busy smiling to complain.
Director Robert Luketic isn't nearly as ambitious as Alexander Payne,
who used Witherspoon to such dazzling comic effect in her best film, _Election_;
whereas Payne mined her perkiness for subtly sinister satire, Luketic simply
uses it for the easy lightweight laugh. That's just as well, for screenwriters
Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith clearly aim low. Witherspoon's Elle Woods
is a very rich, very blonde, very _Clueless_ sorority girl about to graduate
with a degree in fashion marketing. When her ambitious beau Warner Huntington
III (Matthew Davis) dumps her instead of popping the question before heading off
to Harvard Law, Elle makes like the WB's Felicity Porter and works her butt off
to gain entrance to the same school. Needless to say, flamboyant Elle is like
the proverbial fish out of water in the stuffy Ivy Leagues, but don't
underestimate the power of blond ambition.
Even with such modest goals, Luketic and the writers don't quite hit
every mark. The climax brings to mind Marisa Tomei's classic testimony in
_My_Cousin_Vinny_ but quite pales in comparison since _Legally_Blonde_'s take is
rather abrupt, not to mention the film's central trial plot leaves a lot to be
desired. But hitting every required mark and many in-between is Witherspoon.
Not only is she a superb verbal and physical comedienne with precise timing, she
pulls off the critical task of making Elle ditzy in personality, not in nature.
When Elle inevitably starts to prove her naysayers wrong, it's completely
believable--even if the surrounding circumstances are less so.
_Legally_Blonde_ may get a bit heavy-handed and obvious in its conveying
its trite "Believe in yourself" and "Don't judge a book by its cover" morals,
but Witherspoon's finesse with the funny makes everything else go down fairly