Legally Blonde [DVD]
Screenplay : Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith (based on the novel by Amanda Brown)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Reese Witherspoon (Elle Woods), Luke Wilson (Emmett), Selma Blair (Vivian Kensington), Matthew Davis (Warner Huntington III), Victor Garber (Prof. Callahan), Jennifer Coolidge (Paulette), Holland Taylor (Prof. Stromwell), Ali Larter (Brooke Taylor Windham)
The giddy, effervescent pop comedy Legally Blonde is the result of a collision between the two polar ends of the intellectual stereotype spectrum. On one side, we have the intellectually stuck-up, perpetually dull, and socially inadequate graduate student, and on the other side we have the dim-bulb, fashion-hyperconscious California valley girl. What makes the movie work is that both stereotypes are used to generate laughs at the respective members of each camp, yet the story allows the characters some room to move and breathe and, most importantly, change within their stereotypic confines. The movie has a nice, bubbly message to go with its nice, bubbly protagonist: Always be true to yourself.
Being true to herself is the fuel that keeps the college-senior protagonist, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspooon), moving, even though, to some people, what she is seems shallow and materialistically contrived. Of course, to an extent, that's exact true. A precocious American princess born into the wealth and privilege of Bel Air ("I lived across the street from Aaron Spelling!" she proclaims in one scene), Elle is completely wrapped up in herself and her own dreams of what constitutes a perfect life.
That is all shattered when her oh-so-perfect boyfriend, Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), dumps her when she is expecting a marriage proposal because his dreams of being a senator by the age of 30 do not include a wife who is, in his words, more Marilyn than Jackie. Elle is utterly distraught that her picture-perfect post-college dream life has been effectively ruined, and it seems that all her energy has been sapped out of her as she holes up in her room at the sorority house for a week, eating chocolate and watching soap operas.
But, as the saying goes, you can't keep a good woman down, and Elle has too much life and vivacity to sit around moping for too long. Rather than accept being dumped (it isn't in her nature to be rejected), she decides to win Warner back by getting into Harvard Law School, where he is headed after graduation. Elle's undergraduate major of fashion design doesn't help her admission prospects much, but she's smart enough to ace the LSAT and creative and unabashed enough to send in an audacious personal video (directed, she claims, by "a Coppola") that grabs the attention of the admissions board.
Grabbing attention is what Elle does best, and Reese Witherspoon grabs the role and takes it with gusto and cheer. She's fun in the same way that Alicia Silverstone was so much fun in Amy Heckerling's Clueless (1995)—she fulfills the fantasy of literally having it all, good looks and brains to boot. Elle is the superior character in the movie because she's brilliant, but she doesn't wallow in it like all the sappy, dull law students who surround her. Her hot-pink outfits, sassy stride, and cheery outlook immediately make her an outcast in a world in which hard-core intellect and self-imposed social isolation are the rules of the game. The other students just don't know how to take Elle because they can't believe that anyone who would walk and talk and dress like a living Barbie doll could possibly be smart. It wouldn't be fair.
First-time feature director Robert Luketic lets the movie play out loosely, wisely keeping his camera focused at all times on Witherspoon's wonderfully comic performance. When plot mechanisms start kicking in, especially around a court case involving a famous L.A. fitness guru (Ali Larter) accused of murdering her husband, the movie starts to sag too much, especially in scenes involving a lecherous college professor (Victor Garber) who tries takes advantage of Elle. It fits into the movie's overall structure, once again showing how a woman can't be attractive and perky without being thought shallow and dim, but it sometimes comes across as a little too much.
Much better are the scenes between Elle and Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair), a fellow law student and Warren's new fiancee. Vivian is plain-looking and snobbish, and she immediately detests everything Elle is about. The movie manages to let them poke some serious jabs at each other and still develop a plausible friendship in the end. It's good to see that, even though Elle finds a new romantic interest in a young lawyer played by Luke Wilson in a near throw-away performance, the most emotionally satisfying relationship is between two female friends who find common ground between the disparate stereotypes they represent.
|Legally Blonde: Special Edition DVD|
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 / 1.33:1|
|Audio|| Dolby Digital 5.1 surround|
Dolby 2.0 surround
|Languages||English (5.1), French (2.0), Spanish (2.0)|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Supplements|| Audio commentary by director Robert Luketic, producer Marc Platt, and actress Reese Witherspoon|
Audio commentary by crew members
"Inside Legally Blonde" making-of featurette
"The Hair That Ate Hollywood" featurette
Hoku music video, "Perfect Day"
Original theatrical trailer
|Release Date||November 6, 2001|
|Legally Blonde is presented in both anamorphic widescreen in its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and in a 1.33:1 pan-and-scan version on the same side of the disc (as always, I advocate steering clear of the pan-and-scan). The image quality on this disc is superb—sharp, crystal clear, and sometimes dazzling with its gaudy, perfectly saturated colors. The transfer handles the abundance of pink and red beautifully without any blooming, while also maintaining natural skin tones and deep, rich blacks. A first-rate effort.|
|The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack sounds good, but isn't particularly showy. Primarily dialogue-driven, the soundtrack remains firmly rooted on the front soundstage for the most part, although there are intermittent surround effects that are done well, and the musical score is nicely spaced out among all the speakers..|
| MGM has put together a good array of supplements for this Special Edition, most of which are housed on the second side of the disc. |
The first side includes two screen-specific audio commentaries. The first commentary by director Robert Luketic, producer Marc Platt, and actress Reese Witherspoon is laid back and fun; Luketic is especially energetic in talking about the film. The second audio commentary features input from no less than six members of the film's crew: costume designer Sophie de Rakoff Carbonell, production designer Melissa Stewart, cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond, screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, and animal trainer Sue Chipperton. I never would have guessed that there was so much to talk about this movie, but both commentaries maintain interest throughout, pointing out details you might have otherwise missed and relating amusing behind-the-scenes antics. If that's not enough information for you, though, the disc also includes the option for a pop-up trivia track that plays during the movie.
The second side of the disc includes two featurettes. The first, "Inside Legally Blonde, runs about 19 minutes and is a fairly typical promotional making-of featurette. It includes brief interviews with Reese Witherspoon, director Robert Luketic, screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, and novelist Amanda Brown, among others. It's not deeply insightful (you'll obviously get much more out of listening to the two commentary tracks), but it's fun.
The second featurette, "The Hair That Ate Hollywood," runs about nine minutes and opens with director Robert Luketic asking the question that has perplexed civilizations for centuries: "What is blonde?" Most of the featurette focuses on key hairstylist Joy Zapata, hair color director Nancy Braun, and designer/hair colorist Dawn Ellinwood and how much work went into perfecting Reese Witherspoon's gorgeous coiffure. You also learn interesting tidbits like the fact that Witherspoon had 40 hairstyle changes during the movie, which, given that it's only 96 minutes long, means there was one at least every 2.4 minutes.
Eight deleted scenes in nonanamorphic widescreen are also included on this side of the disc, each of which has a brief introduction by Luketic explaining where the scene would have appeared in the final cut of the movie and why it was eventually left out. The image quality of these scenes is not particularly good, as it appears they were transferred from videotape, rather than from the original film. Also included is the music video for Hoku's catchy theme song "Perfect Day" and the film's original theatrical trailer.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick