A sorority queen decides to grow up, paint the world pink, and move right from Airhead Land to Harvard Law College. Easy, ain't it? Well, yes, according to the sickly-sweet world that debutant director Luketic builds for us.
Elle Woods (Witherspoon) is the darling of the campus, a glam doll with everything going for her - a runner-up for Miss Hawaiian Tropic, an appearance in a Ricky Martin video and a hunk of a boyfriend who's going to propose to her. Or so she thinks. Warner (Mathew Davis), her dreamboat lover, destroys her perfect world by dumping her because he needs someone "more serious" to fulfil his aspirations of becoming Senator.
After a prolonged sulk session, she suddenly decides to become the kind of girl he wants. So, she applies to Harvard..and suprisingly, gets in. Where she discovers that Warner has got back with an ex-girlfreind named Vivian (Blair), who tries her hardest to put Elle down. After a few humiliating incidents, Elle decides to take charge of her life and starts delving into the complicated world of legalese. Along the way she discovers a friend in the form of a manicurist, who just can't get herself a lovelife.
Soon things start falling into place - she gets selected to help out her professor on a murder trial, her friend gets her love life in order and she manages to gain the confidence of the accused.
The film focuses on the "dumb blonde" image and tries very hard to counter this view. Unfortunately, it ends up reinforcing those very views. Sure, Elle gets her way, flounces through court and tops her class, but it's just a little too cute and a little too forced. Witherspoon is ideally cast as the perpetually-lively Elle, but at times it seems like she's just pushing her character through.
Instead of being a movie in which the heroine overthrows this stereotype, what we have is a series of situations where it's proved that she's not really brilliant, but can only apply her own inane and petty skills to better effect. That's how she wins her case (thanks to her knowledge of hair care) and how she helps her manicurist friend with her love life (thanks to her tactics in grabbing the attention of men).
The actors manage to develop their characters as much as they can - not an easy task given the film's heavy focus on Witherspoon and the frenzied atmosphere of law school. So we have two-dimensional figures, who are either very dumb, very smart or very radical. The plot moves forward way too rapidly at times; I guess this is to cover up the flaws in the story line (how does a fashion major grasp the essence and nuances of law in a matter of months?)
In the end, "Legally Blonde" is an over-mushy, slightly-plasticky, light-headed summer movie. You have been warned.This article was first published on 07 Dec 2001.