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Fashionably funny

Review: A pretty smart 'Blonde'

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

(CNN) -- The new comedy "Legally Blonde," starring an irrepressible Reese Witherspoon, is a new twist on the old adage, "Looks aren't everything."

Elle Woods (Witherspoon) is a super-blonde, super-rich super-sorority girl from the tony enclave of Bel Air, California. When she's dumped by her Harvard Law School-bound boyfriend Warner (Matthew Davis) -- because she's too blonde to be considered seriously as wife material -- she fights back, nail by manicured nail, first by following Warner to Harvard Law School, then by proving that just because you're blonde doesn't mean you're a joke.

The movie, however, is full of good humor. Based on the novel of the same name by Amanda Brown, and adapted for the screen by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith ("10 Things I Hate About You," 1999), "Legally Blonde" is a sassy satire that retains a message: believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Besides being funny, it's an ode to self-empowerment -- especially girl power -- and its target audience of young women everywhere will gobble it up like the latest glossy edition of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Blonde-out-of-water story

Reese Witherspoon stars in the comedy film 'Legally Blonde' (July 13)

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Elle isn't such an unlikely candidate for Harvard Law; she did have a 4.0 average as an undergraduate at the fictional CULA. (Of course, her major was fashion merchandising.) Moreover, she also has a very impressive background as homecoming queen and sorority president, her signature color is pink, and she's appeared in a Ricky Martin music video. Who could ask for anything more? She's an emblem of diversity!

Naturally, she's accepted. Nothing will stop her now as she campaigns all over Harvard to win back her man. Call it blonde ambition.

"Legally Blonde" becomes a "blonde-out-of-water" story as her snobby fellow law students begin taking bets on how long she'll last. Meanwhile, she discovers that Warner isn't worth all the effort. Succeeding in law school becomes a personal goal, and not merely a means to win back her shallow boy toy. She's a bubbly blonde with brains. Her points of reference may not be Plato and Socrates, but she proves that knowledge about Clinique, Porsches and lip gloss also can come in handy in a classroom or a courtroom.

Fine support

The supporting cast is a winning bunch. Selma Blair (a former Witherspoon costar in "Cruel Intentions," 1999) is excellent as Vivian Kensington, a perfect bitch -- complete with pearls -- who has snagged Warner and is wearing his grandmother's six-carat Harry Winston diamond engagement ring on her "bony" finger.

Luke Wilson ("Bottle Rocket" 1996) plays Emmett Richmond, a somewhat thankless role as a third-year law student who falls in love with the inner woman beneath Elle's golden locks. And Jennifer Coolidge, most recently seen in 2000's "Best of Show," turns in a touching performance as a middle-aged high school dropout manicurist befriended by Elle at a local beauty shop -- the only place where Elle feels at home when she first arrives in the Ivy League.

First-time feature film director Robert Luketic is an Australian native who has been dedicated to becoming a film director since the age of 15. This debut project sees him well on his way.

Full of cliches and pop culture references, and peppered with trendy slang, "Legally Blonde" has its roots deeply planted in the style of another hit teen comedy -- basically, it's "Clueless" (1995) goes to college. Whatever. It's a formula that's well done here with plenty of laughs.

"Legally Blonde" opens Friday and is rated PG-13.

• 'Legally Blonde' official site

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