“”Legally Blonde”” Pretty in PinkGrade: B1999’s underrated Election was memorable mostly for the sparkling, magnetic performance of Reese Witherspoon as Tracy Flick, a high school overachiever who pursued her goals with a manic, good-natured singlemindedness and a delicious comic edge. Now Tracy Flick comes of age–and how–in this facile, perky comedy of redemption, as Witherspoon plays sorority Pollyanna and fashion doyenne Elle Woods.
Dressed to thrill in an audacious, pastel explosion of pinks and turquoises, Elle enrolls in Harvard Law School in a bid to reclaim her social-climbing boyfriend (Luke Wilson). Instead of fulfilling the expectations of her egghead classmates by falling on her face, Elle sets the place on its ear, smashing the dumb blonde stereotype by embracing it with smarts, style and class. Much of the repartee is featherweight, especially the sorority scenes that dominate the first half-hour; “”Legally Blonde”” isn’t above cheap, sitcom-y laughs, a la “”Bridget Jones’s Diary”” or “”The Wedding Planner.”” But depth matriculates with devilishly clever handling of difficult situations, such as Elle’s novel responses to Socratic grilling by law school profs and her handling of a murder case as she defends a sorority sister, played with desperate abandon by Ali Larter of “”Final Destination.”” This should be a breakout role for La Reese; though she doesn’t trade in overt, blunt sexuality like, say, Denise Richards or Nicole Kidman-she’s a bit too generic looking and fleshy-she plays the camera like a Stradivarius, with glamor and emotion to burn. The only young actresses who could give her a run for her money are Natalie Portman, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles. Also noteworthy here are Selma Blair (“”Cruel Intentions””) as a starchy brunette classmate, and Raquel Welch as a wealthy matron. Directed by Robert Luketic. Written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith. Running time 1:40. Rated PG-13. For Movie Reviews and Commentary, go to www.kenrosenberg.com