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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Legally Blonde
Legally Blonde
MGM // PG-13 // November 6, 2001
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 23, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


Probably one of the biggest suprise hits of the year, "Legally Blonde" was one of the latest films in a series of progressively stronger efforts from MGM, who looks to be turning around their somewhat weak output of recent years. At the same time, the film also cemented the star status of Reese Witherspoon, who has been on the edge of really breaking out after a solid lineup of films like "Pleasantville" and "Election".

"Blonde" certainly won't be considered art, but as light comedies go, the film contains more spirit and energy than most in the genre, mainly thanks to Witherspoon's bold and occasionally near-perfect performance. Witherspoon plays Elle Woods, a somewhat ditzy sorrority sister who finds out that she's being dumped by boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), who finds that he needs a "Jackie, not a Marilyn."

He's off to Harvard, but she won't let him go quite so easily. She works hard enough to get the kind of grades to be considered by the school and puts together a silly - but likable - video that sells the board on her admittance. Once there, she finds herself wildly out of her element, as her rainbow colored outfits and perky personality meet with mocking laughter by the Harvard students. The other problem she must contend with is new competition for her old boyfriend in the form of Vivian (Selma Blair).


As one might expect, Elle triumphs her way into a law group that assists in trying to solve a murder case. It's at this point where "Legally Blonde" goes slightly over the legal limit of believability, but "Blonde" works far better overall than it should have. Witherspoon's performance is marvelous, making a goofy character not only sympathetic, but charming. Unfortunately, some of the supporting performances are lacking in "Blonde"; had they been a little stronger, "Blonde" may have even worked a little better. Selma Blair, whose comedic talents were on display superbly in "Cruel Intentions", is forced to sit with an irritated look on her face for most of the time. Luke Wilson, whose dry humor in "Bottle Rocket" was great, is somewhat bland here.

Minor faults and criticisms aside, "Legally Blonde" manages to be fluffy and entertaining enough to be very entertaining more often than not, largely and almost completely thanks to the terrific performance from Witherspoon.


The DVD


VIDEO: "Legally Blonde" is presented by MGM/UA in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen edition and an extremely cropped pan & scan edition. Both editions of the movie are shoehorned onto one dual-layered side of the disc, while some of the special features are on the flip-side. The 2.35:1 widescreen edition, while containing a few minor blemishes, is consistently beautiful. Sharpness and detail throughout the movie is quite good, as the movie maintained a consistently well-defined look that never veered into softness.

There were some concerns though. While none of the following distracted largely from the viewing experience, they did add up to make the picture quality somewhat less than it could be. A couple of light traces of pixelation and edge enhancement are visible, but there really weren't that many print flaws. Light grain inconsistently appeared, but other than that, there were only a few speckles and a stray mark.

The film's vibrant color palette was rendered uniformly well, as colors appeared bright, rich and well-saturated, with no instances of smearing or other problems. It's unfortunate that the widescreen and cropped pan & scan editions had to be crunched onto one side of the DVD, and that a pan & scan version had to be included at all. Still, the anamorphic widescreen version comes out fine, looking good and, aside from a few minor faults, boasting good image quality.


SOUND: "Legally Blonde" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and often suffers from "comedy audio". In other words, although there are some opportunities for at least moderate surround use, the majority of the audio stays firmly rooted in the front speakers. Surrounds only pop in to provide support for the music and score, but really don't offer anything else. Still, although the audio lacked activity, it did provide fine quality. The score came through crisply, sounding bright and lively, while dialogue was clear and easily understood.

MENUS:: Lightly animated pink menus that are not too remarkable, but subtle and fun.

EXTRAS::


Commentary: The first commentary track is from actress Reese Witherspoon, who's joined by director Robert Luketic and producer Marc Platt. I've mentioned countless times in the past that some commentaries are plagued by an overabundance of praise - "You're good". "No, you're good!" This first "Blonde" track is a prime example of this fault, as the three participants seem to think many scenes are their favorite moments and that everyone was wonderful to work with. Platt and Luketic stop the track cold several times to lavish praise on their lead actress whose joined them for the discussion, as well. The track was not a total wash-out, as the three occasionally chimed in with some interesting information about filming a particular scene, a location, some production obstacle or working with the actors. They also provided good energy and certainly seemed willing to talk, as there isn't much in the way of blank space during the track. I simply would have liked to have heard a little more in-depth discussion of what it took to make the movie.

Commentary: This is a second commentary from various memebers of the film's crew, including cinematographer Anthony Richmond, costume designer Sophie de Rakoff Carbonell, production designer Melissa Stewart, screenwriters Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith and animal trainer Sue Chipperton. While this track was somewhat drier, I still found it considerably more intresting than the other commentary, as these folks combined provided more in-depth details about the making of the movie than the three on the other track offered. Richmond's discussion starts off the track and although his chat about the film's cinematography is very technical, I found it pretty fascinating. The costume and production designers provide a good understanding of the lengths they went to achieve the film's vibrant look, while the screenwriters did a nice job discussing the changes they made from the novel and their general ideas about the story and characters. While still not one of the best tracks I've listened to lately, this was a very nice mix of information and a little fun now and then.

Fact Track: Colored bars bring up various tidbits throughout the picture, which makes for an enjoyable pairing with one of the commentary tracks.

Deleted Scenes: 8 deleted scenes are presented in rough form with introductions from director Robert Luketic. There are some fun moments sprinkled throughout these scenes, but they don't push the plot forward or are unnecessary.

Inside Legally Blonde: While this documentary starts off interestingly enough by having the writers, producer, novelist and director explain, step-by-step, the way that "Blonde" went from script-to-screen. Things then start to become a little unfocused and heavy into "praise mode". It all starts to come into focus again towards the end, as a discussion of the characters and story proves to be mildly intresting, as Witherspoon provides interview footage, as well.

Trailers/Etc.: Trailers are provided for "Legally Blonde" and "Princess Bride: Special Edition". There's also a music video for Hoku's "Perfect Day".

Also: "The Hair That Ate Hollywood", a short featurette about the film's "blondeness" and the joys of being blonde.


Final Thoughts: "Legally Blonde" provided a fun and enjoyable experience. It shouldn't have worked nearly as well as it does, but Witherspoon is superb in her role and carries the film. MGM's DVD provides enjoyable video and deent audio quality along with a very nice helping of supplemental features. Recommended.

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