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When a blonde sorority queen is dumped by her boyfriend, she decides to follow him to law school to get him back and, once there, learns she has more legal savvy than she ever imagined.
For more about Legally Blonde and the Legally Blonde Blu-ray release, see Legally Blonde Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on July 15, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge
Director: Robert Luketic
» See full cast & crew
Legally Blonde Blu-ray Review
Elle Ipsa Loquitur
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, July 15, 2011
Legally Blonde made Reese Witherspoon a star and deservedly so. In other hands, the story of Elle Woods, a spoiled L.A. kewpie doll who goes to Harvard Law School for all the wrong reasons, could have become just another "fish out of water" comedy. It would still have been funny watching Elle hand out her pink, scented resumé and pouring Evian for her beloved pooch, Bruiser, in the Law School quad, but it wouldn't have been the summer hit and enduring classic that Legally Blonde became. It took Witherspoon to make Elle a three-dimensional character, with feelings, depth and, yes, an interior life that people around her might not notice but the audience could see shining through her eyes. With rare exceptions, the best comedy comes from characters who take things seriously - and Witherspoon's Elle took shopping, manicures and Cosmopolitan (a/k/a "The Bible") as seriously as she would ultimately take criminal law. The only thing Elle doesn't take seriously, at least at the start of the film, is her own potential, and one can easily imagine an alternate version in which she stays that way and the dumb blonde blunders into a happy ending like a female Forrest Gump. That film might make us laugh, but it wouldn't be Legally Blonde. Some of the film's best moments result from Elle's decision to buckle down and apply the formidable talents she wielded in soap opera viewing, fashion and make-up to torts, contracts and civil procedure. The results are impressive, and it doesn't hurt that the first case assigned to Elle turns on fashion and hair care minutia that only someone with her background would notice. That's a staple of legal dramas. What, you thought it was a coincidence that Vinny Gambini's first case just happened to turn on the kind of automotive trivia that his fiancée knew cold?
The film opens during Elle's senior year at a Southern California party school, where Elle is having what appears to be a perfect day. She's a straight "A" student majoring in fashion, president of her sorority, Delta Nu, beloved by all her friends, and dating a hunk named Warner (Matthew Davis), who's invited her to a fancy restaurant that evening, where Elle expects him to propose. Elle's best friends, Margot (Jessica Cauffiel) and Serena (Alanna Ubach), take her shopping in anticipation, and the entire sisterhood sees her off that evening. But Warner doesn't propose; he dumps her. Playtime is over, and his family expects him to get serious. He tells Elle that he wants to be in Congress by the time he's 30, and for that he needs "a Jackie, not a Marilyn". Elle is crushed and retreats to her room for days. Then inspiration strikes. She'll make herself over into the kind of woman Warner wants. She'll get herself into Harvard Law School, where Warner plans to go. Out come the LSAT prep books, and the supposedly dumb blonde achieves a near-perfect score. Elle's video admission essay leaves the admissions committee aghast, but HLS has always prided itself on admitting students with unusual backgrounds. (I know many HLS grads, and this is actually true.) Elle and her beloved Chihuahua Bruiser are off to Harvard. From the start, Elle doesn't fit in. As the film's production designer puts it, she's "a pink girl in a brown world". Her chirpy west coast style cuts no ice with severe, caustic personalities like Prof. Stromwell (Holland Taylor), who throws her out of class on the first day for being unprepared. But some people are intrigued by Elle, especially if they're not 1Ls in competition with her. One such person is Emmett (Luke Wilson), a recent graduate who now works as an associate and research assistant to Callahan (Victor Garber), a criminal law professor and also a top defense lawyer. Still, east coast culture shock is nothing compared to the horror that awaits Elle upon discovering that Warner, her sole reason for attending HLS, is no longer available, but engaged. The interloper is an old girlfriend, Vivian (Selma Blair), whom Elle describes, with uncharacteristic lack of charity, as a "constipated bitch". Privately, though, she begins to doubt herself, pouring out her troubles to her new manicurist, the sympathetic and lovelorn Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge), who works at a local salon. (Coolidge, as always, is hilarious in everything she does.) Midway through the film, there's a remarkable scene in which Elle has what can only be described as a moment of clarity, where she faces Warner and the camera slowly zooms in on her face as she finally realizes her mistake. "I'm never going to be good enough for you", she says, and for just a brief moment, the film ceases to be a comedy and becomes a drama that speaks to anyone who ever threw themselves at a person who didn't want them. Of course, the drama can't last for long, since Elle delivers the line dressed in a Playboy bunny outfit, having been falsely informed by Vivian that the function she's attending is a costume party. She looks, in Warner's phrase, like a walking felony. From then on, Elle gets serious about law school, catching everyone by surprise. (The legal argument she delivers about a sperm donor's parental rights is pretty clever, though why the issue would arise in Callahan's criminal law class is anyone's guess.) So superior is her performance that, when Callahan needs extra help on a high profile criminal case, he recruits Elle as one of four first-year assistants, along with Warner, Vivian and Enid (Meredith Scott Lynn). The accused is exercise queen Brooke Taylor Windham (Ali Larter), charged with killing the husband thirty years her senior. The chief witnesses against her are the dead husband's first wife (Raquel Welch), his sullen daughter, Chutney (Linda Cardellini), and the pool boy, Enrique (Greg Serrano), with whom Brooke was supposedly having an affair. Brooke just happens to be a former member of the Delta Nu sorority, and she and Elle instantly bond. She tells Elle secrets she won't even tell Callahan. It would be a crime to reveal more for first-time viewers, but let's just say that Callahan misbehaves, Elle ends up having to take over the case (and yes, there is a Massachusetts law permitting law students to handle court cases), and Elle's knowledge of footwear and hair care proves crucial in Brooke's defense. As for happy endings, Elle discovers that she prefers being someone to marrying someone. She looks like a Marilyn, but she's a Jackie after all.
Legally Blonde Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cinematographer Anthony Richmond, a frequent collaborator with Nicholas Roeg (e.g., The Man Who Fell to Earth), gave Legally Blonde a delicate, gently lit appearance where there's plenty of detail but a softness that prevents harsh edges from intruding themselves. Even at law school, this is always Elle's world, and she casts her spell wherever she goes. The early California scenes are golden and candy-colored. Once Elle moves east, the pallette turns darker with more brown and black, so that Elle's brighter colors always stand out. When Elle first reports for duty on the Windham case, the severity of her "official" outfit is striking, but by the time she's promoted to courtroom advocate, she has returned to her signature pink. The 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray reproduces all of these shades and color shifts with excellent fidelity, and detail is strong throughout. There is a minor amount of visible film grain, but it is well controlled without any evidence of DNR or other digital tampering. Black levels are excellent, as can be readily seen in the courtroom scenes, where the bulk of the attire is dark suits. Legally Blonde was released in 2001, before the motion picture industry had fully converted to digital intermediates, and according to the credits, the film was finalized by traditional photochemical means. The transfer betrays its analogue origin on occasion, if one is looking for it, mostly in the occasional flickering in the image from the shifting of the film element as it moves through the telecine scanner. These flaws are minor and infrequent, and I mention them only because watching so many recent productions sourced from DIs has made me more alert to the differences (and often charmed by them), when I view a more traditional image.
Legally Blonde Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As with most comedies, the focus of the DTS 5.1 lossless track is the dialogue, but the surround channels are put to good use for environmental ambiance. Listen, for example, to the detailed presence of the restaurant surroundings where Warner tells Elle that it's over. You're very much aware that he's picked a public place to deliver the news (not that it saves him from Elle making a scene). Classrooms, courts, a spa and the law school quad get similar treatment. The charming original score by Rolfe Kent (who recently did Up in the Air) is nicely reproduced, along with the well-chosen pop songs, notably "Perfect Day" by Hoku.
Legally Blonde Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
One has to wonder why Fox keeps mastering MGM discs with BD-Java. It's not as if they're using the code to implement any of Blu-ray's advanced features, such ad BD-Live, Bonus View, or secondary audio. Indeed, the one feature from the 2001 Legally Blonde DVD that might have utilized BDJ, the so-called "Trivia Track", has been omitted. So Fox might as well have done what Warner does with nearly all of its catalogue titles: omit BDJ and leave the user free to stop and resume from the same place. But no. The uselss BDJ code gets inserted anyway. There's no main menu, which makes it difficult to browse the special features, and no ability to set bookmarks, a capability that no BDJ-encoded disc should ever be without. Has anyone involved in creating these discs ever actually played a Blu-ray? All of the special features have been ported over from the 2001 DVD release with the exception, as noted, of the "Trivia Track". When enabled, that option provided pop-up balloons with facts about the movie or useless information like what percent of women in America paint their nails. I'm not a fan of such tracks, which trace their origin to VH1's "Pop-Up Video", because they overlay and obscure the video image. But completists may want to retain their DVD.
Legally Blonde Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Once you understand why Legally Blonde works so brilliantly, it becomes obvious why the sequel was doomed to failure. The original film is only nominally about Elle getting other people to take her seriously; it's true subject is how Elle sees herself. That's why test screening audiences clamored for an additional scene in which Elle, now a successful trial lawyer, tells off Warner for the cad he is, and the filmmakers wisely added such a scene; without it, the film would feel incomplete. By the end of Legally Blonde, Elle, who was never a dimwit, no longer acts like one, which is why she's chosen to give the commencement address at her law school graduation. The makers of the sequel (different writers; different director) didn't have the sense to recognize that they couldn't regress Elle back to being a dummy in order to replay the first film's arc in a new venue. That may work for an action hero. It won't fly for a newly empowered heroine. It was the height of injustice when the wretched sequel was released on Blu-ray earlier this year, while the great original remained confined to DVD. That injustice has now been remedied, with the unfortunate limitation that the original is a Wal-Mart exclusive for the moment. If there's a Wal-Mart near you, it's worth the trip. The film is a classic (or will be, when it's old enough), and the Blu-ray is highly recommended.
Legally Blonde: Other Editions
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