Reese Witherspoon is Elle Woods, a bubbly, blonde California sorority girl who sets her sights on Harvard Law School in a bid to impress and hopefully win back her ex-boyfriend.
Elle Woods is a fashion merchandising major at CULA, president of her sorority and adored by her legions of Grecian sisters. Her utopian microcosm is shattered when her dimpled frat boy love interest Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis) dumps her on the very night she thinks he is going to propose. As it turns out, Warner, who is leaving to study law at Harvard University, wants to marry someone a little brainier who will help bolster his image when he runs for public office. So Elle decides to apply to Harvard Law School and groom herself to become a career politician's wife in hopes of winning him back. She sends HLS a video essay and, clad in a pink bikini floating in her pool on an air mattress, details the reasons why they should consider her application. For whatever ludicrous reason, this works, and Elle packs her bags and pet Chihuahua and heads for the Cambridge dorms. But rather than win her popularity, her high maintenance looks ostracize her from Harvard's academic overachievers. And just when things could not get any worse, she finds out Warner has reunited with his prep school sweetie Vivian (Selma Blair).
Articulate and magnetic, Witherspoon salvages this film from its painfully wafer thin and predictable plot. She makes shoddy dialogue entertaining and lame one-liners seem sharp. She also adds some dimension to her bimbo character Elle, demonstrating both her smart and flaky side. Unfortunately, the script calls for her SoCal ditzy persona to prevail over the one with substance. Her dark-haired nemesis Blair perfectly acts the part of Warner's bitchy, blue-blooded girlfriend. She turns her stiff, pearl-clad character into a more likable and distinctive one. These two rivals definitely steal the show. Too bad the same cannot be said for Davis, who gives a bland and forgettable performance as Elle's boyfriend Warner. Of course it doesn't help that the script left him with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. Jennifer Coolidge is funny enough as the tacky manicurist who befriends Elle, but why on earth were Jessica Cauffiel and Alanna Ubach cast as her sorority sidekicks? They look more like 30-year-old beauty school dropouts than a couple of college students.
As talented as Witherspoon is, her abilities can only detract so much from such an ill-conceived story line where things never seem to add up. In an early scene, for example, Elle is in her dorm room applying nail polish, a hair-color kit from Herbal Essences clearly visible on her desk. It's hard to believe the girl who grew up across the street from Aaron Spelling would color her hair over the bathroom sink and actually paint her own nails. The props and costumes are elaborate and pink, giving the film a campy, bubble-gum feel, but it's presented inconsistently. The ending comes together a little too easily when Elle solves a high profile case thanks to her in-depth knowledge of hair perms. To make things cheerier, the characters' futures are summed up at the bottom of the screen. Not surprisingly, the heroes succeed and the villains get their just desserts. Elle, who spend most of the film lamenting the hardships of being a blonde and beautiful object, learns that she really can get by just by being perky!
Legally Blonde has some funny moments that will appeal to its target teen audience, but the predictable and generously flawed story will turn people off.