Reviewed by GREG KING
(MGM/20th Century Fox)
Director: Robert Luketic
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge, Holland Taylor, Ali Larter, Jessica Cauffiel, Alanna Ubach, Raquel Welch, Oz Perkins, Linda Cardellini, Meredith Lynn Scott
Running time: 96 minutes.
A few years ago Australian director Robert Luketic launched his career with his acclaimed short film Titsiana Booberini, which has since netted him international recognition and a lucrative contract with MGM. His first feature under that deal is Legally Blonde, an exuberant, frothy, lightweight but immensely enjoyable and smart teen comedy, best described as a cross between Clueless and The Paper Chase.
Legally Blonde centres on Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), a ditzy, spoiled blonde who treats school as a giant social event. But, on the eve of his heading off to Harvard law school, her long time boy friend Warner (Matthew Davis, also seen in Tigerland) dumps her, as he wants someone more serious to complement his political ambitions. He wants a Jackie O, not a Marilyn Monroe.
To prove herself, Elle enters Harvard after cramming for the exam with the help of her equally ditzy friends and a most unusual video essay. At first, Elle is not taken seriously, and is the butt of numerous jokes by fellow students, including Warner’s new girl friend Vivian (Selma Blair). Determined to prove them wrong, Elle begins to take Harvard and her studies seriously, and before long is picked by one of her professors to assist in the defence of a wealthy socialite accused of murdering her elderly husband. As Elle grows in confidence and strength, she also helps a number of people around her to achieve their goals and turn their lives around.
Wonderfully written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (10 Things I Hate About You), Legally Blonde is a film about stereotypes, but it cleverly eschews the usual cliches, and playfully indulges in some self-parody. The film also contains a strong message about not judging a book by its cover and following your own dreams despite the obstacles in your path, but the moral is sugar coated with plenty of big laughs. There is even one scene in the beauty parlour that seems inspired by Luketic’s Titsiana Booberini, choreographed by none other than Toni Basil, of Mickey fame.
Luketic wisely realises that Witherspoon in the centre of the film, and keeps the focus on her throughout. Witherspoon has often been underrated as an actress, but recently she has delivered superb performances in films like Election, Cruel Intentions, and Pleasantville. In Legally Blonde she again delivers a solid, knowing, and sly performance and displays a deft sense of comic timing. She makes Elle’s growth both credible and delightful to watch.
However, there are some nice supporting performances, particularly from Jennifer Coolidge, who is wonderful as the beauty parlour assistant, and Victor Garber, who is perfect as the arrogant and egotistical law professor.
Luketic maintains a fairly brisk pace throughout, and makes the most of his Hollywood debut to suggest that he could have a big future.