legally blonde(2001)
director: robert luketic
reese witherspoon, victor garber, selma blair

. Itís easy to imagine how much worse Legally Blonde could have been without Reese Witherspoon as this cheerfully frothy filmís heroine. Itís a slight but inspired fish-out-of-water comedy, with Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a SoCal sorority princess who decamps to Harvard Law School to win back her dunderhead boyfriend.

Kirsten Dunst, for instance, might have played her as the sort of mincing, needy sponge in which sheís come to specialize. In Sarah Michelle Gellar'sís hands, sheíd come off as steely, even bitchy -- far too Buffy; as played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, far too Barbie.

The precedent for a film like Legally Blonde was set a few years ago with the underrated Romy and Michelleís High School Reunion, a film that made audiences root for the bimbo as underdog, a feat of audience identification not attempted since Judy Holliday was a marquee star.

Witherspoonís Elle lives in a pink-hued world where pens are topped with feathers, bikinis come sequinned, and hearts adorn anything. Itís also a world where the prettiest, most popular girl can become a freak and outcast, especially in the gray, uptight east coast depths of Harvard, where socially awkward grinds learn to turn the chip on their shoulder into a weapon of success.

Witherspoon, a natural comic, sets her jutting jaw and marches upward, a spoiled but snobbery-free rich girl whose respect for human vanity is the key to her charm. Itís a ludicrous but appealing fantasy that only gets too absurd when the film gets all Capra-esque, with a murder trial and a lecherous lawyer, losing the strength of Elleís Cosmo girl convictions and diluting the delirous froth.