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Wayback Wednesday: Legally Blonde (2001)

I have no trouble watching this movie 18, 000 times…what, like it’s hard?

As unbelievable as it may sound, I didn’t get around to watching Legally Blonde (2001) until an alarming amount of years after its release. Like, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t until 2016 that I saw this movie for the first time. Unacceptable, I know. Especially when you consider that I wasted years of my life watching terrible movies like, Transformers (2007) and Green Lantern (2011) on repeat. Why did I put myself through that kind of torture? Why wasn’t I exposed to the brilliance of Legally Blonde at an earlier age? If 11-year-old Luke had grown up watching Elle Woods flawlessly triumph over the villainy of injustice, who knows? Maybe I would have grown up to be a lawyer. I could have been a lawyer, mom! Seriously, I was a very suggestible child. Repeat viewings of The Mummy (1999) had me convinced I wanted to be a librarian. Well, I’m a writer now so close enough, right?

Credit: / MGM Distribution Co.

Based on the novel of the same name by Amanda Brown, Legally Blonde follows Elle Woods, a bubbly sorority girl who, to win back her ex-boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, successfully gets herself admitted into Harvard Law School. In the process Elle not only proves to her judgemental peers that there’s more to who she is than just her looks, but also discovers a genuine passion and skill for law.

Look. These days the word “iconic” is thrown around far too often and far too casually. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even like to use it. But I can’t help it: Everything about this movie is incredibly iconic to me. From the colourful costumes, to the witty line delivery, to the triumphant finale, Legally Blonde is a lightning-in-a bottle masterpiece. It comes as no surprise that it’s a timeless classic that’s beloved by pretty much anyone who sees it. There are so many reasons why time movie rocks, but I think the most important is who’s behind the endlessly quotable screenplay. Written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, the pair also have such amazingly empowering hits as 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Ella Enchanted (2004), She’s the Man (2006), and The House Bunny (2008) to their credit. No wonder I love this movie so much! The pair have a gift for crafting fun, lighthearted movies that are not only comical and silly, but also carry a bold and uplifting message of female empowerment. Fun and empowering is a rare and tricky combination for movies to pull off, but Legally Blonde does so magnificently. It’s dressed up as light, fluffy, camp, and for the most part it is, but it simultaneously interweaves this awesome message of following your instincts and being your most unapologetic, authentic self.

I love the central message of Legally Blonde. It tells girls that you don’t need to sacrifice who you are in order to pursue your goals and interests. It’s a reminder that no matter what people may think of your outward appearance, their judgement does not prohibit you from being whoever and whatever you want to be. If you so wish it, you are absolutely allowed to be both Malibu Barbie and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The freedom is yours. Her stuffy classmates constantly belittle Elle and tell her that she isn’t valuable or capable because of how soft and feminine she is. They completely underestimate and demean her despite the fact the she got into the same school as they did and takes the same classes as they do. But Elle repeatedly proves them wrong and accomplishes whatever it is that she sets her mind to, often because of how she looks at things through a lens that only she could. Legally Blonde definitely challenges people’s ideas of what women can be in a defiant roar that will have you believe you’re capable of anything. This movie continues to inspire girls 20 years later. I have a friend who ADORES this movie and used to watch it a few times a month. Now, she’s on her way to law school! 

Keeping in theme with the movie’s central message, people don’t give Legally Blonde enough credit for how competent a piece of filmmaking it is. It does so much in such a short runtime. There”s equal parts comedy, romance, shock, triumph, and upliftingness. Really, the pacing is astounding. Elle is at Harvard within the first 20 minutes! Legally Blonde is a tight hour and a half that uses every minute perfectly. It’s a lovable little movie that is the ideal 90 minute viewing experience. I was especially pleasantly surprised how easily the plot switches focus around the 40 minute mark. What starts out as Elle wanting to get her man back evolves into her discovering that she’s not only interested in law, but good at it. Soon Warner goes from being her only objective to a side character barely on Elle’s radar. Winning the big case and proving to herself that she has what it takes to be a top lawyer become her main goals and seeing her ambition for both is moving. Even her flirtatious relationship with Emmett, played so sweetly by the always likeable Luke Wilson, is on the backburner as Elle works to prove the innocence of a woman wrongfully accused of murder. God, this movie is so ahead of its time.

So, this is easily Reese Witherspoon’s most recognizable, celebrated, iconic role, yes? Without being hyperbolic, she deserves an Oscar for playing Elle Woods. She’s a charming, chipper, delight that is the definition of effervescent joy. She’s hardworking, intelligent, kind…What a role model! Elle proves that dedication, loyalty, and being your authentic self no matter how others may dismiss you, is the best way to succeed. When she wins the big case in the end with nothing but her unbridled confidence and undisputed knowledge of hair care, I cheer every damn time. It’s an amazing scene to watch that is just going to put the biggest smile on your face. It’s EVERYTHING and admittedly, gives me confidence that I too could win a court case. In fact, it’s impossible not to cheer for Elle in everything that she does. 

Witherspoon absolutely nails the tone of both the character and the movie as a whole. At first glance she’s your average blonde valley girl, but there’s so much more to her personality. She’s caring, ambitious, and advocates for the well-being of other people. In that way, Legally Blonde shares a lot of similarities with Clueless (1995). Duh, yet another reason I worship this movie. Elle Woods is like if Cher Horowitz went to college. Like Clueless, Legally Blonde is a campy and bright comedy whose tongue is always planted firmly in its cheek. Keeping that tone in mind is so important and the rest of the cast is just as in sync with it as Witherspoon is. Selma Blair, Jennifer Coolidge, Holland Taylor, Victor Garber, Linda Cardellini…this cast is FABULOUS. Each one is as wonderfully silly or sassy as you’d expect and shine brightly with each chance they’re given. They add so much heart and pizazz to the movie, making it even more magnetic and impossible to resist. Let me put it this way: This cast gives me endorphins. Endorphins make me happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.

Legally Blonde is fucking great. It’s completely aware of what it’s setting out to do and succeeds with flying colours. It’s so earnest, inspirational, and wildly joyous. It’s no wonder why this classic was adapted into a musical. If you haven’t seen this movie…oh my God, don’t walk, RUN to go watch it. Even if you think this movie isn’t for you, trust me, it is. Oh, and one final piece of advice for you: bend…and SNAP!

Are you a fan of Legally Blonde?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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