Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde (2001)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Davis, Luke Wilson, Jennifer Coolidge
Extras: Audio Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical Trailer, Music Video, Trivia Track

There are some movies which simply look great "on paper". That is, the factors involved in the film seem to insure success. Be it a spectacular cast with a well-known director (i.e.: "Mixed Nuts") or a film with a cool concept that aims to please (i.e.: "Lifeforce"), there are simply films which don’t live up to their pedigree. Then, there are films such as "Legally Blonde". Yes, the cast of familiar faces is comforting, but the concept reads like many other films and feels very much like "Clueless". Yet, this film somehow beats the odds and overcomes any surface deficits, which it may suffer. With "Legally Blonde" newly arrived on DVD, we can examine the film, and see how it won the hearts of audiences.

"Legally Blonde" tells the story of one Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon). Elle is a young, beautiful, blonde senior at California U., where she is president of her sorority and all-around "big girl on campus." She’s also dating Warner (Matthew Davis), a handsome young man with a promising future. That is, she’s dating him right up until the point where he dumps her, explaining that her look and personality don’t jibe with his political aspirations. Elle is heart-broken, until she realizes that the only way to win Warner back is to become the kind of woman that he wants. She decides that she can accomplish this feat by following him to Harvard Law School.

Once Elle has beaten the odds and become a student at Harvard Law, she finds that she has entered a totally new world. First of all, Warner isn’t very glad to see her, and neither is his new girlfriend (Selma Blair). The students are all very smart, very preppy, and very serious, and aren’t interested in Elle’s peppy, good-time attitude. She gets a similar reception from her professors. Besides her dog, Bruiser, the only confidants that Elle finds is fellow student Emmett (Luke Wilson) and manicurist Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge). When Elle is chosen to assist on a real case, she realizes that she now has a chance to prove that she’s gone to law school for herself, and not to impress anyone else.

As with "Bring it On" from earlier this year, "Legally Blonde" succeeds through sheer tenacity. The "fish out of water" story isn’t very original, and most of the plot is predictable, but like Elle herself, the film never gives up. More importantly, "Legally Blonde" never tries to be more than what it is — an entertaining film with an uplifting message. But, said message is delivered without the film every becoming preachy. We know from the outset that "Legally Blonde" is going to be about Elle proving that you can’t judge a blonde by her haircolor, so the film delivers that message in small doses. The movie is never terribly great, but nor is it awful. It is consistently entertaining throughout, giving the audience enough laughs and plot-points every few minutes to keep things interesting. The only real flaw with the film is that it carries its "fairy tale" story a bit too far. For, the character of Elle simply winds up being a bit too perfect by the end of the film. (Actually, the biggest flaw in the film comes when Luke Wilson says, "How do you think I would look as a blonde?" They should’ve flashed a picture of Owen Wilson on the screen. Now, that would’ve been funny.)

The glue which holds "Legally Blonde" together is star Reese Witherspoon. The actress becomes so engrossed in the role, that when one sees her in the featurettes as herself, it’s hard to believe that she isn’t acting like Elle. Witherspoon exudes great confidence in the role and is able to turn a potentially annoying character into someone who is easy to love. Matthew Davis is very good as the handsome, yet shallow Warner. The always dependable Luke Wilson, doesn’t have much to do here, but he adds a certain "hip" aspect to the film. But, it’s the Chihuahua Bruiser (real name Moony) who steals the show. Everytime they show Bruiser wearing a necktie, I can’t help but laugh.

MGM Home Entertainment has the honor of swearing in "Legally Blonde" to DVD. The film has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 2.35:1 and is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TVs. (A full-frame version of the film is also available on the disc.) The image is clear, and relatively sharp, but there is some noticeable grain in certain scenes, most notably during the opening credits. There is a subtle amount of edge-enhancement noticeable, although only in some scenes. There is no distortion on the image, but it simply doesn’t look as clear as most other major releases hitting DVD today. One high point of this transfer is the color scheme, with Elle’s signature pink blazing through every scene, yet leaving no bleeding or streaking. The video on "Legally Blonde" is good, but not what you’d expect for MGM’s big summer hit.

The audio, however, is another story. The <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> soundtrack sounds fine, giving the viewer crisp and intelligible dialogue, free from hiss or distortion. The peppy rock soundtrack is treated well, and the bass response is impressive. Being a comedy, there isn’t a great deal of surround sound action, but we do have a nice fill of ambient music and crowd noise emanating from the rear speakers.

The "Legally Blonde" DVD contains a bevy of extra features, starting with two audio commentaries. The first features star Reese Witherspoon, director Robert Luketic, and producer Mark Platt. This is a fun and playful commentary, with Luketic and Platt doing the majority of the talking. They comment on the making of the film, giving us details on the locations and actors, and pointing out all of Reese’s hair and costume changes. The second commentary is a bit strange. For the first 15 minutes, it offers comments from director of photography Anthony B. Richmond, who is very dry. Then, he goes away and we get costume designer Sophie de Rakoff Carbonell, production designer Melissa Stewart and animal trainer Sue Chipperton. This segment runs for about 36 minutes and is much more interesting, as they speak at length about getting the right "look" for the film. For the remainder of the commentary, we have screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, who discuss specifics of the film and compare it to the source novel. In the end, this commentary is informative, but it is jarring to suddenly have the speakers change. Along with the commentaries, the "Legally Blonde" DVD offers a "Trivia Track", which is a "Pop-up Video" like device displaying interesting facts about the film on-screen. I actually learned more from this than from the commentaries.

We next have two documentaries. "Inside Legally Blonde" is 21 minutes long, and gives an in-depth look at the making of the film, offering interviews with the principal cast and crew, behind the scenes footage and some outtakes. The 9 minute, "The Hair that Ate Hollywood" is a very entertaining piece which focuses on the challenge of getting just the right color blonde for Elle’s hair. It is truly amazing how much work went into this process, and we also learn that Reese Witherspoon had 40 different hairstyles in the film! Following these featurettes, there are eight deleted scenes, which are introduced by director Robert Luketic. Watching these clips, it’s easy to see why they were cut, but it is nice to have the director’s intro to give us the inside scoop. Personally, I prefer this to a commentary, as I only have to watch the clip once with an intro. Rounding out the extras is a music video by Hoku for the song "Perfect Day" and the theatrical trailer for "Legally Blonde", which has been <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1.

Well, the verdict is in and "Legally Blonde" is a winner. The film is a fun and harmless romp and may be the perfect cure for the pre-holiday blues. At times, you may feel as if you’ve heard the story before, but the Elle Woods character is simply a hoot to watch. The DVD offers a mixed-bag with its transfer, but a nice selection of special features. "Legally Blonde" is worth checking out. Case Closed.