Legally Blonde – but still dumb

Sluggish pacing, predictable plot, unfunny jokes - thank God Legally Blonde has got a decent lead actress.

Allison Felus

Topics Politics

Some people find dumb blonde jokes funny, some people find them irksome. Whatever camp you fall into, you should avoid Legally Blonde.

The film follows Beverly Hills fashion bunny Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) to America’s prestigious Harvard Law School, where she intends to mould herself into the perfect mate for ex-boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis) – an upper-crust slimebag who dumps her because she lacks gravitas. But once Elle enrols, she realises what a creep Warner is, learns the standard Hollywood lesson to ‘be yourself’, and wins a high-profile murder trial to boot. Hurrah!

Or maybe not. Legally Blonde is Robert Luketic’s first feature-length film, his only previous credit being a short called – and I’m not making this up – Titsiana Booberini. Whatever Titsiana’s merits might have been, Legally Blonde suffers from the curse of the first-time director: sluggish pacing. Camera shots linger at the end of jokes for about five seconds longer than they should – and when it comes to comedy, five seconds is more than enough to kill off any hint of humour.

But sometimes the lingering camerawork works in the film’s favour – thanks only to Witherspoon. When the camera fixes on her face for those extra five seconds, it’s a delight just to watch her act – and it’s in these moments that Elle’s essential goodness shines through. The movie might have her prancing about in ridiculous pink outfits and stiletto heels, but it can’t diminish her good heart and pure intentions. Witherspoon’s acting fills in all the emotional gaps between dumb blonde gags and Luketic’s clumsy directing.

Like much Hollywood fare these days, Legally Blonde’s main focus is self-esteem – which leaves little room for Elle actually to learn anything at university. A cutesy montage shows her hitting the books at a beauty salon, on a treadmill and anywhere else she gets a chance to – paying the smallest amount of lip service to her intelligence. And during the climactic courtroom scene, Elle falls back on her knowledge of fashion and haircare to win the case. I know this is just entertainment, but it rankled me and is bound to rankle anybody with an ounce of respect for a university degree.

For all its female empowerment rhetoric, Legally Blonde places a disturbingly high premium on marriage. Elle is obsessed with Warner because she wants to be the first of her sorority sisters to march down the aisle. A subplot involves her manicurist marrying a hunky delivery man. And the happy ending that is Elle’s graduation ceremony comes complete with a subtitle telling the audience that her current boyfriend plans on proposing ‘tonight’.

If there were ever a time when a young woman wanting to get married by any means necessary felt archaic, it is now. In our post-Bridget Jones era, it has never been trendier for women to remain single. And darlings, how unfashionable of the fashionable Elle Woods not to realise this.

Legally Blonde is on general release in the USA, and will be released in the UK and across Europe in early September 2001. See the Legally Blonde website.

Read on:

spiked-issues: Film

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


Want to join the conversation?

Only spiked supporters and patrons, who donate regularly to us, can comment on our articles.

Join today