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Legally Blonde

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2001 1 Jan
Legally Blonde

from Film Forum, 07/19/01

Widely compared to the popular comedy Clueless, Legally Blondefollows the rise of a pretty airhead through an obstacle course of intellectual and romantic challenges.

Preview's Mary Draughon calls it "a delightfully funny, goofy comedy," but says the film is ultimately a disappointment because it includes some foul language: "It should be illegal to produce a film aimed at impressionable teenagers and then fill it with offensive language." I wonder, though, if a film set in these contemporary contexts would be at all convincing without occasional, realistically course language. Is it the artist's job to reflect the culture, or to paint what it should be? Bob Smithouserhas a similar complaint, but still favors the film: "Despite some convenient and illogically truncated plot turns, the good-natured story drew me in anyway. I enjoyed witnessing Elle's positive impact on the people around her. In a sea of Hollywood cynicism, Legally Blonde isn't too hip to uphold virtue. Even so, this fish-out-of-water comedy/courtroom drama still resorts to language and humor that will have families citing it for contempt."

Others raved about the film's star, Reese Witherspoon. Holly McClurecalls Witherspoon "perfect as the unstoppable and ever optimistic character that ends up influencing and changing the lives of people who cross her path." She appoves of the film's "ethical element" of honesty and intelligence "winning out" over judgmentalism. Michael Elliott says Witherspoon is "so consistently perky and genuinely funny that we don't have to buy into the story … we can just enjoy it for what it is. Her cheerful optimism is contagious and she has the audience rooting for her character as she works to establish herself as a serious law student." He also finds a simple but true principle at the heart of the whole endeavor: "People will often judge us on appearance or by some other superficial means, without giving us an opportunity to prove that there is more to us than meets the eye."

Mainstream critics are smitten by Witherspoon's performance as Elle. Bruce Newman at The Mercury Newsfound the cleverest description of all, calling her "a kind of Aaron Spelling Brockovich." Listen to Michael Wilmington at the Chicago Tribune: "Without Witherspoon this movie might be nothing but another lighter-than-air, formula-bound girl-power comedy. But with her, it's a delight. Clichés and one-note characters keep cropping up, and you can smell the ending and most of the plot twists a mile away. But it doesn't matter. Witherspoon is in almost every scene, and she makes them all snap and crackle. [Her] comic timing is immaculate, her persona irresistible. But it's her spirit and immersion in the part that really infuse the whole film and make it work. Like all the best Hollywood comic movie actresses, Witherspoon has that priceless quality of grounding her movies, making almost every scene shine." But for Kevin Maynard of Mr. Showbiz, one great performance does not a good movie make: "While Witherspoon gamely bounces from scene to scene, she's ultimately done in by lazy filmmaking. Aussie director Robert Luketic never establishes a discernable comic rhythm. Legally speaking, the script by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith wouldn't even pass muster on a David E. Kelley series."