A Look Back: Legally Blonde

“Legally Blonde,” starring Reese Witherspoon, is yet another movie that spawned a slightly less winning sequel, but that is only because the original is perfect. The sequel, which features Reese’s character, the ditzy yet brilliant lawyer Elle Woods, going to testify before Congress is also good, though it doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original. It’s also based on a novel, which I haven’t read, but am sure is equally awesome. But back to the first movie.

Reese plays a sunny Californian sorority girl who, after not being proposed to by her preppy boyfriend (Matthew Davis), who informs her that he wants “a Jackie, not a Marilyn” if he wants to go into politics, decides that the best way to re-capture his attention is to apply to Harvard Law School. (Of course, the viewer knows from the get-go that he’s a dick, but for plot purposes, Reese takes longer to twig this). Anyway, capitalizing on her, well, assets, Reese sends a video essay which wows at least a few of the admissions committee members, and after acing the LSATs, packs her things, plus her adorable dog, Bruiser, and heads to Cambridge, Mass. Though she’s still the same friendly and approachable person she was in California, these traits transplanted to New England only make her fellow students think she’s an airhead. So the stage is set for some life lessons to be learned.

Her first day of classes does not go particularly well, especially, since Reese shows up with a fluffy pink pen (kind of like the one Amy uses in “Gone Girl”) while everyone else hauls out a laptop. She also discovers that Matthew has a new love interest: the brunette, upper crust  and uptight Selma Blair, who is not particularly pleased to meet a rival. Selma does a bunch of stereotypically evil things to rebuff Reese, but after a humiliation that involves Reese showing up to a party dressed inappropriately, Reese starts hitting the books in earnest. “I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be!” she vows to the snickering party guests, and does she ever. Even the icy Selma begins to thaw after she realizes that Reese is in earnest about becoming a real lawyer and actually possesses some class of her own.

However, Reese does make one good East Coast friend, a manicurist played by Jennifer Coolidge, who commiserates with her over their mutual depressing love life. Elle, in return, uses her newfound knowledge of the law to help Jennifer retrieve her own dog after visiting her ex-husband. (As Jennifer puts it after an agonizingly long pause after he berates her: “I’m taking the dog…Dumbass!”) In addition, Reese gives Jennifer tips on how to snare the hunky UPS guy who regularly visits the nail salon. But all this is just warm-up to when Reese gets an opportunity to work on a real legal case, defending former sorority sister, Ali Larter, with classmate Luke Wilson, who takes her much more seriously than Matthew.

In the end, of course, Reese wins her case and winds up finding both a guy who appreciates her brains as much (if not more) than her beauty, and a profession that involves just as much ingenuity as fashion design. And she’s so darn adorable that the viewer doesn’t begrudge her a second of her luck.

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