Plot: Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) seems to have it all, a loyal boyfriend, a cute chihuahua, and the adoration of her sorority sisters, but she is certain things are about to get even better. Her longtime beau Warner (Matthew Davis) has requested a special dinner date to discuss the future and of course, Elle is convinced he is going to pop the question. After she chooses just the right outfit, makeup, and proposal reaction, she is devastated to learn that Warner doesn’t want to give her a ring, but instead he wants to give her the boot. He is headed to law school and thinks a more serious girlfriend is in order, so he breaks up with Elle. She is crushed, but decides to regroup to pursue her man all the way to Harvard, though first she has to figure out how to get into law school in the first place. Can Elle somehow make her way into Harvard and if so, how will she navigate the much different landscape of that environment?
Entertainment Value: This light, brisk comedy proved to be a star making turn for Reese Witherspoon, who is radiant as Elle Woods and brings the kind of charm and charisma you expect from an elite level performer. The narrative hits a lot of the usual romantic comedy beats, but evades some of the lesser tropes and lets Elle shine as more than a potential love interest. I also like how Legally Blonde subverts the fish out of water gimmick to make the perky, popular girl the odd one out, then makes that premise deliver on all fronts. The movie is smart to give Elle a depth that most romcom leads aren’t afforded, but it also makes the wise choice not to demonize her rivals, making this much less abrasive than most of its peers. Yes, she duels with her competition, but she isn’t cruel about it and even though she takes some abuse, the script is able to work some magic even in that regard. So if you assume Legally Blonde is just another formulaic romcom, that isn’t the case, even if it does play into the genre tropes at times, while also toying with them. I think this could win over even some of those who don’t normally spend much time with romcoms, but it might also be too perky, pink, and optimistic for some, I’m sure. But I always have fun with Legally Blonde and while the genre isn’t one of my favorites, this is one movie that gets it right.
This one has an impressive overall ensemble, but the movie is all about Reese Witherspoon and her performance in Legally Blonde help send her star power into the stratosphere. She is able to convey so much perkiness in Elle, it is almost too much, but she also knows when to reel it in and how much. I love her turn in Election as an over the top good girl, but here the dark side found in that movie is absent, but the drive and ambition remain palpable. I think she elevates the material and really goes all out to bring Elle to life, but she is also given more depth than most romcom leads, so the writing deserves some credit as well. But in the end, Witherspoon’s remarkable charm and charisma make her almost impossible not to like here. Selma Blair is good as her main romantic rival, while Matthew Davis is rather flat as the guy in the middle, though he isn’t given all that much to do. The cast also includes Ali Larter, Luke Wilson, Alanna Ubach, and Jennifer Coolidge.
The Disc: Legally Blonde hits Blu-ray as part of Shout Factory’s Shout Select line, given a new 4k scan that lets the bright, colorful visuals really pop off the screen. The detail level is excellent, with much more fine detail evident than on the DVD editions, while the colors really steal the show here. As expected, the pinks are electric and stand out, but the entire visual design shines here and I think fans will be thrilled with this brand new, much improved presentation. A new interview with Jessica Cauffiel is included, while the rest of the extras are ported over from the previous discs. This includes two audio commentary tracks, three behind the scenes featurettes, a Hoku music video for Perfect Day, some deleted scenes, and the film’s trailer. Shout Factory’s release also includes the second Legally Blonde movie, so you can have a double feature.