Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Legally Blonde

A fish-out-of-water comedy so feather-light that it threatens to disappear into the ether, Legally Blonde stars Reese Witherspoon as a wealthy West Coast sorority girl whose ambitious boyfriend dumps her for the sake of his political career. Heartbroken, Witherspoon schemes to join her ex at Harvard law school, a goal she attains with improbable ease. Once there, she finds herself a social pariah, cruelly mocked and harangued by book-learning Poindexters who don't cotton to her flamboyant style of dress or her psychotic perkiness. Will Witherspoon teach her stuffy classmates to loosen up and not judge a book by its cover? Will director Robert Luketic convey her rapid growth as a student via numerous learning-montages set to upbeat pop songs? Will the filmmakers exploit every conceivable stereotype and fish-out-of-water trope? And will Witherspoon's ex—the sort of blow-dried cad who'd get tossed into a pool if he were in an '80s teen-sex comedy—scowl bitterly when he receives his eventual comeuppance? The answers to all these questions would be obvious even if the film's trailer didn't give away giant chunks of its plot, and Legally Blonde is never funny or diverting enough to overcome its slavish devotion to formula. While the film hits every expected note with dispiriting predictability, it does possess a novel view of the social hierarchy of college life. Where fish-out-of-water comedies generally present a zany nonconformist shaking up a bunch of squares, Legally Blonde boldly stands up for glib conformity, presenting Witherspoon's fashion-obsessed sorority girl as a liberating force for good and her brainiac classmates as mean-spirited bastards unwilling to give her a chance. Legally Blonde's don't-hate-her-because-she's-beautiful message will no doubt resonate strongly with unfairly oppressed sorority sisters everywhere, but there's still something inherently questionable about positing a gorgeous, rich, consumerist beauty queen as a plucky underdog. Luketic keeps the film moving at a brisk clip, and Witherspoon throws herself into a role that's little more than a limp variation on Alicia Silverstone's turn in Clueless. But their best efforts can't come close to redeeming a film as forgettable as the inane pop songs that litter its soundtrack.


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