Everybody knows going in this not going to be a serious movie. Start with the title, Legally Blonde. The implication is that being blonde is a handicap that needs to be covered by the ADA, so if you can demonstrate yourself to be legally blonde, we need to give you a break. This came out in 2001 from MGM and was a great hit, due about 100% to the scintillating performance of legally blonde Reese Witherspoon. As I write this the movie is streaming on Hulu, where I’m getting the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.
Witherspoon’s character is Elle Woods, elle being French for she. And is she ever rich and fashionable. In fact, her college major is fashion merchandising, which I am not inclined to capitalize, since I find it difficult to believe this is an existing degree program at a serious college.
Anyhow, Elle and her self-absorbed sorority sisters live in a make-believe world where fashion and status are the the alpha and the omega. In fact, if anything is to summarize this storyline, then that thing would be status.
So, a big day has arrived for Elle, and her sorority sisters are bubbling over with enthusiasm for her. Tonight Elle’s best beau is taking her to a most swanky eatery and is going to pop the question. It is no secret that what matters in these young women’s lives is advancing properly through life’s grand chain of events—proper family, proper school, proper boyfriend, proper husband, proper life as the proper wife of the proper man. And the proper man arrives to pick up Elle for the proper event in her life. He is Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), and Elle’s future is going to be just perfect, and proper.
Only, at the most elegant of all dining spots Warner Huntington III does not pop the question. Instead he delivers the awful truth that what he needs is the proper wife for a proper man on his proper career path. And the proper wife not a ditsy blonde majoring in fashion marketing. He is off to Harvard Law School and the rest of his life. And by the way, thanks for the ride.
Ditsy does not completely describe Elle Woods. She has fortitude. After crying her lovely eyes out she decides anything worth wanting so badly is worth the maximum effort. She announces to her proper parents from the pool of their proper home in a proper SoCal neighborhood that she is going to Harvard Law School, and she is going to lay claim to the most proper Warner Huntington III. Her parents are nonplussed.
But if there is one thing Elle Woods learned while obtaining a 4.0 average in fashion marketing, then that thing is marketing. She markets herself to the Harvard Law School admissions board in no-holds-barred presentation video. The board members are impressed. She has what Harvard Law School needs more of, tits an ass. Also an impressive score on the Law School Admission Test.
Harsh reality sets in when Elle Woods attends her first class. Harvard Law School is going to flunk you out if they can. This is made clear by one Professor Stromwell, played by Holland Taylor. In the meantime, Warner Huntington III has already given the coveted engagement ring to one snippy Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair), a classmate seen her gloating over Elle’s humiliation.
Vivian further rubs it in, flashing off the coveted engagement ring at Elle when Warner Huntington III introduces to the two at a chance meeting on campus.
Vivian loves to twist the knife, further demonstrating this story is all about status. There’s going to be a party, and Elle announces she would love to go, as well. Vivian lets slip it’s a costume party, so Elle shows up in costume. It’s not a costume party.
Cut to the chase. Elle, Vivian, and Warner Huntington III make it to the end of the first year at Harvard Law School and are selected for internships with the law firm of Professor Callahan (Victor Garber). All the major characters come together in one shot, as they interview the defendant in a major homicide case. With her back to the camera is Brooke Taylor-Windham (Ali Larter) from Elle’s college sorority. Brook is accused of murdering her fabulously wealthy husband, something over thirty years her senior. To the left is Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson), a serious hunk of a person previously seen lurking about campus, and giving Elle some sound Harvard Law School advice. That’s Professor Callahan presiding over the interrogation.
Callahan professes not to buy into his client’s innocence, not a great position to take if you are defending her against a murder charge.
Meanwhile Elle has become involved in a sidebar with a manicurist, who so much wants to connect with the hunky UPS delivery man. Without wasting a bunch of ink, Elle’s advice pays off, as the movie ends up with the lady getting her dog back from an obstinate ex-boyfriend and subsequently married to the UPS hunk.
You never saw a worse trial performance by a Harvard Law School professor. He is completely inept in defending the widow Taylor-Windham, who has an alibi but will not disclose it. But Elle’s fashion expertise comes to the rescue. A key prosecution witness is the pool boy, Enrique Salvatore, at the Windham estate. He claims to have had a passionate affair with Mrs. Taylor-Windham, but Elle figures different. Enrique turns out to be much too fashion conscious for a straight guy. Elle figures he’s gay. After Professor Callahan asks him some functionary questions (he’s a Harvard Law School professor?) on cross-examination, Emmet Richmond steps forward to ask a few more, also more pertinent. Such as, “How long have you been sleeping with Mrs. Windham? (three months) ending with, “And your boyfriend’s name is? (Chuck). That explodes all over the courtroom, especially when Enrique disclaims any such relationship, and the boyfriend, who is in court, calls Enrique “bitch” and storms out.
Professor Callahan has by now determined that Elle is just the type of lawyer his firm needs, and he arranges a private conference with her, wherein he indicates that T&A is what he really needs.
That’s the end of it for Elle, and she quits the team. But Emmet convinces her to stay on, and he takes over the defense after the widow Taylor-Windham fires Callahan and company. The principal witness against the widow is the step daughter, Chutney (Linda Cardellini), who discovered the widow kneeling over her father’s dead body. No gun was ever found. She was taking a shower during the time of the murder and did not hear the gunshot. But Elle destroy’s Chutney’s story by pointing out that nobody with any idea of fashion would be taking a shower immediately after an expensive perm job. The daughter did it.
Elle throws over Warner Huntington III and hitches up with Emmet. Raquel Welch appears in the movie as the first Mrs. Windham.
Yes, fashion consciousness wins the day, and that’s what this movie is all about, making it something not to take seriously. Of course, this is comedy, and we need to give it a lot of leeway. But not that much.
Law professor Callahan is shown to be completely inept in the defense of his client. A back alley law firm would have investigated the pool boy and discovered he had a boyfriend.
The widow was discovered kneeling over the just-shot husband. And there is no gun ever found. And the prosecution is going to make a case out of this?
The sidebar concerning the manicurist and the UPS guy plays no discernible part in the movie plot, seemingly inserted for additional comic relief and also to chew up 15 minutes of celluloid (hint, I don’t think they use celluloid anymore).
The defendant in a murder case will not reveal her alibi. She was having liposuction at the time of the murder, and her reputation as a fitness guru would be ruined if that ever came out.
Somebody supposedly as sharp as Elle Woods gets taken in by the standard plot device of conning somebody to show up inappropriately dressed at a party?
This was not the end of Legally Blonde. Wikipedia lists a slew of spin-offs:
There is no doubt T&A are going to feature in all of these.