- The Washington Times - Friday, July 13, 2001

"Legally Blonde," a punning title that might be construed as "mean-spirited" in this day and age, embraces abysmal stupidity.
Kind of "Clueless" for the genuinely clueless, this campus farce pretends to champion a ditsy, overprivileged underdog: Reese Witherspoon as Beverly Hills heiress, coed and stealth airhead Elle Woods. Her character resolves to enter Harvard Law School when ditched by a boyfriend headed toward that institution of learning.
"Blonde" promotes Elle from Harvard Law laughingstock to Harvard Law paragon on pitifully flimsy and condescending evidence.
Shameless condescension also drowns a subsidiary character in "Legally Blonde," a lovelorn Cambridge manicurist named Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge). Paulette becomes Elle's confidante during the young woman's loneliest days as a Harvard misfit.
Elle is introduced as the darling of the Delta Nu sorority at apocryphal CULA, presumably an abbreviation for City University of Los Angeles. She is the chapter president and an honor student majoring in fashion merchandising. Elle contemplates nothing but happiness until she is disillusioned by the treacherous Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), some kind of Eastern viper on the CULA campus. During a restaurant date that Elle expects to be an engagement clincher, the smug Warner informs her that he plans to discard her as lightweight baggage upon returning East and gracing Harvard Law with his presence.
A big problem confronts the plot before the heroine can even get it in gear by engineering a Harvard expedition of her own. There's no compelling reason to follow this guy around the corner, let alone across the country. Finessing the technicalities fails to inspire humorous cleverness in the screenwriting team of Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, who demonstrated more proficiency when updating Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" in "10 Things I Hate About You."
This will give you an idea of what's wrong with this movie: Elle evidently drives across the country with her pet Chihuahua, closely followed by a capacious moving van. The law students at Harvard also seem to share a dorm, a funnier notion than the filmmakers exploit. Elle dresses funny, accentuating the pink and fluffy. For the first day of classes, she sets off in an aquamarine smoking jacket that would look just as funny if no one but the doggie saw it.
The filmmakers also accommodate more product plugs than any movie in recent memory.
Having ludicrously stacked the deck against Elle as a law student, the movie overcompensates as ludicrously when illustrating her rabble-rousing rebound from snubs and false starts. Although Luke Wilson is inserted as the obvious improvement on Mr. Davis, nothing resembling an adequate or ingratiating romance evolves.
Between good deeds for Paulette and other needy acquaintances, Elle buckles down with her studies and then inspires total awe by breaking a murder case.
One is rather amazed that a threadbare, hands-on murder case is needed in the context of first-year law study. Elle comes way off the pace to rescue defendant Brooke Taylor Windham (Ali Larter), a misunderstood fortune hunter who trusts Elle as a fellow sorority sister of Delta Nu. Elle, who begins as a mere intern with a professor named Callahan (Victor Garber) who also runs a criminal practice, gets to take over the whole defense. Though unprepared, she seizes on a conveniently incriminating bit of testimony and saves the case as reliably as Perry Mason.
No doubt conscious of their deceits and ineptitude, the filmmakers need to spite some characters to excess while drooling over their dinky heroine. It's not enough, for example, that they should neglect to develop an honorable suitor to replace the unworthy Warner. Mr. Garber's character also must be libeled as unworthy, on grounds of lechery.


1/2 star
TITLE: "Legally Blonde"
RATING: PG-13 ("Language and sexual references" according to the MPAA; fleeting profanity and persistent comic vulgarity, usually pertaining to sex)
CREDITS: Directed by Robert Luketic. Screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, based on a book by Amanda Brown. Cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond; production design by Melissa Stewart; costume design by Sophie de Rakoff Carbonell; and music by Rolfe Kent, with music supervision by Anita Camarata
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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