reviewed by Steve Sailer
UPI, July 13, 2001
"Clueless," Amy Hecklering's 1995 comedy starring Alicia Silverstone as a blonde and spoiled yet insightful and good-hearted Beverly Hills teen, surprised everyone by becoming one of the best-liked films of the last decade. Because Heckerling never made a sequel to "Clueless" (it became a decent TV sit-com instead), "Legally Blonde" is the next best thing. Call it "Clueless Goes to Harvard Law School."
Although "Legally Blonde" wouldn't exactly rate as the best sequel since the New Testament, it's solid enough. The first half of the movie offers some daring insights into the war between women and women, although it isn't as funny as it could be.
The second half reverts to Hollywood feminist clichés, along with a silly Perry Mason-derived murder trial that even features that most shopworn of modern movie chestnuts, the tough but fair black woman judge. Still, the laughs do get bigger.
Besides, it's refreshing to see a movie where the heroine triumphs through intuition, empathy, and charm, rather than through beating up bad guys.
Adorable Reese Witherspoon ("Election") sweetly dominates every scene as the pink-clad uber-blonde UCLA sorority girl in hot pursuit of her Mrs. degree. But when her boyfriend, the heir to a political dynasty, dumps her as he goes off to Harvard Law School - saying she'd be a drag on his Senatorial ambitions because, "I need a Jackie, not a Marilyn" - this seeming airhead resolves to pursue him.
Witherspoon's Bel-Air mom is baffled by her applying to Harvard Law: "You were first runner-up at the Miss Hawaiian Tropic beauty contest. Why are you going to throw all that away?"
"Legally Blonde" realistically details just how much hard work and cleverness is required of a Westside woman to succeed in the extremely competitive career of Professional Blondeness. Witherspoon's knowledge of the chemistry of cosmetics and fabrics is so detailed that it's not too implausible when she buckles down and scores a 179 (out of a perfect 180) on her Law School Admissions Test.
At Harvard, the all-male Admissions Committee (defined by Richard Armour as being "in charge of admitting the University's mistakes") ogles Witherspoon's "application essay" - an "Entertainment Tonight"-style video directed by a minor Coppola. The younger men urge her acceptance: "She had a 4.0!"
"In Fashion Management," acidly replies the less testosterone-addled senior dean.
"We've never had a fashion major before. Aren't we always looking for diversity?"
So, Witherspoon arrives in Boston, where women buy the least hair dye of any big city in the U.S. (Dallas is first in hair dye, with LA close behind, according to sales data from Information Resources, Inc.)
Her battalion of moving men lug in her trunks full of the Technicolor, feather-bedecked clothes last seen in "Clueless," costumes that are inspired more by Doctor Seuss than by Donna Karan.
I hate to deflate this charming fantasy about what LA women actually wear on a daily basis, but this investigative reporter dropped by Rodeo Drive and UCLA's sorority row on Monday to check for himself. The young ladies were dressed in drab-colored tight pants and T-shirts. I suppose if you had invested as much time and money in exercise, diet, and plastic surgery as they had, you wouldn't want clothes that distracted from your body. The "Clueless" school of movie couture represents not LA reality, but little girls' daydreams of how they'd dress if they were Beverly Hills princesses.
Of course, Witherspoon is brutally snubbed by all the career-minded female students, including her old boyfriend's new fiancé.
The assumption that beauty equals dumbness is mostly propaganda put out by women who aren't beautiful. After all, during WWII screen goddess Heddy Lamarr patriotically gave the U.S. government her patent on the radio frequency switching system she devised in her spare time. It's now at the heart of secure military communications. And Cindy Crawford was a high school valedictorian and a chemical engineering major at Northwestern, until she wised up and realized there were better things she could do with her life than optimize oil refinery throughput.
Indeed, in theory at least, beautiful women ought to be smarter than average. After all, lovely ladies notoriously tend to marry men smart enough to have gotten rich. So, the laws of genetics suggest that their daughters would be on average both a little smarter and a little prettier than their typical competitor.
The first half of "Legally Blonde" touches upon a topic rarely portrayed in the movies these days: the intense female vs. female struggle for the few high quality potential husbands. This is the primary theme of soap operas, but Hollywood is leery of it for fear of offending feminists.
Women who devote their energies to making themselves extra-attractive to men are waging an arms race against other women, who fight back by telling Dumb Blonde jokes. It's a great subject for a movie, but "Legally Blonde" eventually wimps out. In the end, female solidarity reigns supreme as the cat-fighting women all unite against their male oppressors. Witherspoon's archrival even dumps her fiancé for having dumped Witherspoon.
Yeah, like, whatever.
"Legally Blonde" is a mild PG-13, for a few needless lines of sex talk.