Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:35 - Released 7/13/01

Legally Blonde is a testament to Reese Witherspoon's ability to make a bad film watchable. The actress seems to be making a career out of playing perky blondes (Cruel Intentions, Election, and Little Nicky are but a few examples), but that seems to be what she does best, and although some might find her bubbly exuberance tiresome, it does a lot to save this film from its own pathetically stupid script. In Robert Luketic's tribute to blonde power (his debut as a feature director), Witherspoon bounces and bubbles her way through law school, using her southern California breeding and sorority mentality to see the law from a different side.

When her preppy boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), dumps her for not being "serious" enough, CULA fashion major and Delta Nu president Elle Woods (Witherspoon) decides there's only one way to convince him she's more than just a pretty face: follow him to Harvard law school. After studying hard and passing the LSAT, she leaves her southern Cal friends (but not her Chihuahua) behind and invades the Cambridge campus, provoking the derision of students, including Warner and his new "serious" girlfriend Vivian (Selma Blair), and professors alike. Her total lack of understanding of law gets her in trouble a few times, but soon she begins to get the hang of it, impressing her professor (Victor Garber) enough to win a place on his defense team for an upcoming murder case. It seems California fitness guru and fellow Delta Nu Brooke Taylor (Ali Larter) is accused of murdering her elderly husband, but Elle's perseverence on the case impresses all her teammates, including friendly assisting attorney Emmett (Luke Wilson). Meanwhile, she never gives up her "blonde roots," teaching the population of a hair salon the finer points of bending over to attract men.

This screenplay is written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (the team who turned The Taming Of The Shrew into 10 Things I Hate About You), based on the novel (this is a novel?) by Amanda Brown. It features broad stereotypes and willfully stupid dialogue, and any real ivy league law students who see it will probably never stop throwing up. But somehow its actors, Witherspoon in particular, save it from being a complete waste of time. She possesses an uncanny ability to keep this utterly inconsequential story afloat by sheer will, maintaining in her character an unwavering sense of fairness and a willingness to forgive throughout the most ridiculous and demeaning of circumstances. Even when her situation could not be more contrived (which is often), somehow she makes us want to see her succeed. Or maybe it's just that she looks so good in a thong. At any rate, if Legally Blonde were sued for stupidity, it wouldn't have a leg to stand on, but the charm of its star almost allows it to get away with murder. ***½

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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