Review by Michael Jacobson
Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor
Garber, Jennifer Coolidge
Director: Robert Luketic, Sally Field, Regina King, Bob Newhart
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Pan & Scan 1.33:1 (Legally Blonde)
Features: See Review
Length: Legally Blonde 96 Minutes, Legally Blonde 2 95 Minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2004
got into Harvard Law School?”
don’t make many comedies as charming and effervescent as Legally Blonde anymore…frankly,
there aren’t many stars today who have what it takes to make them work.
Fortunately for first time feature director Robert Luketic, Reese
Witherspoon is that star, and then some.
Witherspoon’s stock has been rising for years…I feel like one of the
fortunate critics who bought in at the IPO.
I’ve considered her one of the best young actresses working for years
now, and to hear others praising her talent and the quality of her work in this
film, proclaiming her glorious future, brings a smile to my face.
so does the movie. Legally
Blonde is one of those out-on-a-limb pictures with a dangerous premise that
will either work beautifully or sink miserably.
With all factors working together, it does the former.
It’s a fabulously funny script with lines that range from the clever to
the absurd, and delivers laughs ranging from the knowing chuckle to the
accidental loss of bladder control.
Woods (Witherspoon) is a perky, sweet California sorority girl who may radiate
an empty-headed charm, but is far from a “dumb blonde”.
How far? When her boyfriend
Warner (Davis) callously dumps her for “not being serious enough” (i.e., bad
for his image), she takes her 4.0 grade point average and a 179 on the LSAT (no
small feat, folks) to Harvard University’s prestigious law school, in hopes of
winning him back.
nice about the story is that even though she goes to law school for the wrong
reasons, and finds herself in over her head at first, she stays for the right
reasons, and succeeds on her own terms. Elle
is more than a pretty comic possibility. She is a character that wins our hearts, and keeps them for
the long haul.
law school is tough and competitive. Professors
scoff at her, other students avoid her like the plague.
But she stays determined not to let what others think of her veer her off
course. When she triumphs, it’s a
win that seems within her limitations, but it’s enough for a start.
whole cast is good, including the likable Luke Wilson, Reese Witherspoon’s Cruel
Intentions co-mate Selma Blair, Victor Garber and Jennifer Coolidge, with a
brief appearance by Raquel Welch. But
this is a picture that belongs solely to its star.
Ross, writer and director of Pleasantville, gave Reese Witherspoon one of
the best accolades I’ve ever heard bestowed upon an actor…he said that she
was the only performer he had ever seen that completely disappeared into a role
so that there was no trace of her real self left. Watching her over the years, I can verify that.
Her range of performances from dramatic to comic have been vastly varied
and memorable. She never repeats
herself, and she never feels the need to hang on to one iota of her real
never be considered a GREAT movie, to be sure, but it works because it succeeds
in what it sets out to do. It’s
charming from start to finish, with plenty of laughs and a winning central
character. On that, I rest my case.
Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde **
But hold on, friends, we have an appeal.
When a studio produces a surprise hit, the one thing that's not so surprising is the inevitable attempt to cash in on a sequel. And so Ms. Witherspoon, whom I had just praised as never repeating herself, had to do just that. For an actress of her caliber, it might have been an error in judgment. I have a feeling she said everything she wanted to say with Elle Woods in the first movie and left nothing on the table. With Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde, it sometimes feels like she's filibustering to stall for time. Call this one Ms. Woods Goes to Washington.
After graduating Harvard and earning a job in a legal firm, our favorite Mademois-Elle finds herself a cause: after a search for her little dog's birth parents leads her to discover make-up testing on animals, she decides to take her case to Congress, losing her job but finding a new one as an aide to Representative Victoria Rudd (Field), who is sponsoring a new animal rights bill.
What seemed charming in the first movie starts to wear thin in the second, as Elle's naive ditziness goes for comedy while trying to never completely disguise the fact that she has a brain as well. She's someone who looks like she could be the poster child for Estee Lauder, but manages to deliver a speech before a joint session of Congress that comes across as ridiculous, but somehow gets the politicians who favored animal testing to re-examine their conscience and change positions. I assume in Legally Blonde 3, one of these Congressmen will be running for president and proclaiming he'd had only one clear, consistent position on animal testing all along.
Arianna Huffington actually wrote a column when this movie came out about taking her daughters to see it and how inspired they were by it...I guess if my mother were as much of a flake as Ms. Huffington, I'd have probably been inspired by Elle, too. Director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld does his best to deliver a Capra-esque offering, but the ingredients have gotten a little stale.
Though I'd rather stare at Reese Witherspoon than James Stewart, I missed his true earnestness and conviction, which in his day, turned a somewhat sappy story into a great film. I don't know whether he's looking down at Elle Woods with a smile or a grimace.
are superb anamorphic transfers from MGM (pan & scan version included on the
same side of Legally Blonde). Elle Woods is a walking
palate of colors, and these presentations render all of them brightly and
beautifully, with shading from subtle to loud and no bleeding onto darker
backgrounds. Images are sharp and
crisply drawn from start to finish, with good detail from the foreground to the
background, and no grain or break-up to distort the visuals.
Scenes in lower lighting reflect just as well as brighter ones, without
losing definition or contrast.
5.1 audio tracks make mostly subtle uses of the rear stage, for effects like crowd
scenes or outdoor sounds. They
aren’t dominant in the mix, and for the most part, add just a bit of ambience.
The forward stages handles most of the dialogue and music, and both render
without complaint. The song scores
gives the tracks a bit of dynamic range. The
.1 channel is rarely used, but given the nature of the pictures, not really
MGM has really staked a reputation for themselves this year with their Special Edition line of DVDs, and their new double disc Legally Blonde Platinum Collection is no exception. For starters, the packaging is clever, putting both discs in what looks like a pink briefcase, and throwing in other pink accessories, like a notepad, pen, and word magnets. Nicely done.
Legally Blonde begins
with two commentary tracks…the first one is a rather entertaining
listen, with director Robert Luketic, producer Mark Platt, and star Reese
Witherspoon. It’s a humorous and
informative listen…I think both men have little crushes on their star, though!
The second commentary track features a large number of crew members, from
the writers to stylists to the animal trainer, for those who just can’t get
enough! Also included on side one
is a “trivia track”, which turns the subtitles into a very colorful session
of “Pop-Up Video”.
Side 2 contains the other extras, starting with two featurettes. The first one, “Inside Legally Blonde”, is a standard cast and crew interview piece that mixes stories about making the film with the inevitable pats on each others backs. The second one, “The Hair That Ate Hollywood”, is about…well, hair. Rounding out the features are eight deleted scenes with director introductions, a trailer for this film and the Special Edition DVD of The Princess Bride, and a music video for “Perfect Day” by Hoku.
Legally Blonde 2 features a cast commentary with Jennifer Coolidge, Jessica Caufield and Alanna Ubach (what, no Reese?), a 22 minute "Blonde Ambition" featurette, 7 deleted scenes, a two minute gag reel, a music video from LeAnn Rimes, an interactive quiz, photo gallery and trailers for this and other MGM releases.
Legally Blonde Platinum Collection delivers an amusing way to package two
hit films together. The only drawback is that you'll really notice how
much lesser the sequel is than the original. Still, I can think of worse
ways to spend an afternoon than enjoying the charm and spirit of Reese
Witherspoon in the comforts of my own living room. ;-)