May 22, 2015

[Movies] Legally Blonde (2001)

I don't think any of us could have predicted what a hit Legally Blonde was going to be during the time of its release. It was a crazy movie that seemed fated to be dismissed as just another dumb comedy or worse, some weird rehash of the sort of movie that Clueless had been. And given the classic that Clueless remains to be, that was some pretty tough competition.

But instead, we got a movie that was hilarious and brilliant at the same time. Sure, the central character is quite literally "a dumb blonde" as the old stereotype goes, but the story was crafted in a manner that gave her a lot more character and definition beyond that. And how the movie achieved this over the course of 90 or so minutes is what helped make the movie become so much more.

And mind you, this is a comedy that managed to get translated into a rather popular Broadway musical, and not in an ironic sense as we've seen with some not-so-great movies. And personally, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie and how it just worked. Good job, Elle!

Synopsis: Legally Blonde is a 2001 comedy movie directed by Robert Luketic. The screenplay was written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith based on the Amanda Brown novel of the same name.

So Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a college senior, president of her sorority and happily committed to her boyfriend Warner (Matthew Davis). But with graduation just around the corner, Warner decides to break up with Elle in order to look for someone more serious just as he's about to move on to Harvard Law.  The break-up devastates Elle and nearly breaks her were it not for the support of her sorority friends.

But then the idea hits her that the only way to get Warner back is to simply get into Harvard and go to law school with him. As crazy as it sounds, Elle manages to put in the work needed to qualify for Harvard and get into law school despite coming from a fashion merchandising course. But once there, she discovers that Warner is already involved with a new girlfriend, this being Vivian (Selma Blair). So now Elle still hopes to find a way to win Warner away from Vivian while still surviving the greater challenge of Harvard Law School.

The first distinction we need to make here is how brilliantly Reese brought Elle to life in a manner that wasn't just some weird one-dimensional caricature of a person. As much as Elle seems to fall into strange bouts of naivete, she also consistently proves that she's one smart cookie and can be pretty determined when she needs to be. And this is really what drives the movie forward - just how strong Elle really is as an individual and her dogged determination to get what she wants once she sets her mind to it.

Thus the movie avoids falling into the trap of becoming a completely brainless experience. And how Elle navigates past the various challenges in her way using her unique "blonde" skill set is really where most of the humor of this movie lies. Or at least that's how things appear to be in the beginning.

And then the movie amps up the legal side of the story and suddenly we have our quirky little Elle trying to figure out how to get an acquittal for a potential murderer. But again we see her manage to find her way around both her law school class and eventually the court room. And we're not talking about dumb luck revelations or things like that. We at least saw her apply herself and try to do the necessary course work and studying in order to get to a fairly competent level of legal knowledge.

The movie has quite the fun cast consisting of a hodgepodge of familiar and not quite so fresh faces here and there. But they all come together to make for quite the brilliant ensemble, each stressing the fact that we all have individual skills that may not seem universally helpful but do have value at the right moment.

Legally Blonde isn't the greatest or the smartest comedy ever made, but it's certainly entertaining and worth several repeat viewings on not so great days. The humor remains on point and Reese is absolutely charming whenever she's on-screen. Thus the movie gets 4 "bend and snap" moves out of a possible 5.

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