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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Luketic|
|Produced by||Ric Kidney
Marc E. Platt
|Screenplay by||Karen McCullah Lutz
|Based on||Legally Blonde
by Amanda Brown
|Music by||Rolfe Kent|
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Edited by||Anita Brandt-Burgoyne
Legally Blonde is a 2001 American comedy film directed by Robert Luketic, written by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, and produced by Marc E. Platt. It is based on the novel Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown.
The title of the film is a play on words, referencing the phrase, "legally blind". The film stars Reese Witherspoon as a sorority girl who struggles to win back her ex-boyfriend by earning a law degree, along with Luke Wilson as a young attorney she meets during her studies, Matthew Davis as her ex-boyfriend, Selma Blair as his new fiancée, Victor Garber and Holland Taylor as law professors, Jennifer Coolidge as a manicurist, and Ali Larter as a fitness instructor accused of murder.
In America, the film was released on July 13, 2001, and received generally positive reviews. It was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture: Musical or Comedy and was ranked 29th on Bravo's 2007 list of "100 Funniest Movies. For her performance, Witherspoon received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the 2002 MTV Movie Award for Best Female Performance.
The film's box-office success led to a 2003 sequel, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde, and a 2009 direct-to-DVD spin-off, Legally Blondes. Additionally, Legally Blonde: The Musical premiered on January 23, 2007, in San Francisco and opened in New York City at the Palace Theatre on Broadway on April 29, 2007, starring Laura Bell Bundy. The musical has since closed on Broadway, but opened to very good reviews and box office in London's West End. The large ambitious scores to both feature films were written by Rolfe Kent and were orchestrated by Tony Blondal. They featured a 90-piece orchestra and were recorded at the Sony Scoring Stage in Culver City, CA.
In her senior year at the fictional CULA, girlish sorority president Elle Woods majors in fashion merchandising and is in love with her boyfriend, Warner Huntington III, who will attend Harvard Law School the following year. She excitedly expects him to ask her to marry him, but he breaks up with her instead, saying that he has to be with someone more "serious" if he plans on a career in politics.
After a depressed Elle spends days holed up in her room, Elle's two best friends Margot and Serena take her to get her nails done. While waiting, she finds an article about Warner's older brother and his new fiancée, whom he met in law school. Desperate to win Warner back, Elle takes the Law School Admission Test (and scores 179 on it, one point below the highest possible score), applies to Harvard, and although the board of admissions is bewildered at her application and video essay, they are impressed, and she is accepted. Upon Elle's arrival, she is ridiculed because of her beautiful, overly-girly looks and naive behavior, and she discovers that Warner is engaged to another student, Vivian Kensington. She is humiliated even further when Professor Stromwell ejects Elle from her class for being unprepared (using a tiny notepad and not a laptop for note taking). The only friends Elle makes are Paulette, a kindly, yet shy divorced manicurist at a local salon; David, an awkward fellow law student; and Emmett, a young attorney. Elle later helps Paulette gain custody of her dog back from her ex-husband, and she also helps her seduce the delivery man on whom she has a crush. Elle also pretends to be a scorned ex of David's to help him land a date.
After Vivian tricks Elle into attending a party in a Playboy Bunny costume where she retaliates by insulting her, Elle has a discussion with Warner and finally realizes he will never respect her. Now determined to succeed on her own, Elle studies hard and impresses her professors and classmates on many occasions, proving herself enough for Vivian to consider her a threat, and wins an internship with Professor Callahan, as do Warner and Vivian. They work with Callahan, along with Emmett as an associate attorney, to defend Brooke Taylor-Windham, a famous fitness instructor accused of murdering her much older billionaire husband, Hayworth Windham. Brooke was once Elle's fitness instructor and a member of her sorority. Elle believes Brooke is innocent, but Brooke's stepdaughter, Chutney, and the household cabana boy say she is guilty, and that they saw Brooke standing over Windham's dead body, covered in his blood, while Brooke testifies that she loved her husband and only found him after he had been shot to death.
Brooke refuses to provide Callahan an alibi, but when Elle visits her in jail, Brooke admits that she had liposuction on the day of the murder. Public knowledge of this fact would ruin Brooke's reputation as a fitness instructor, so Elle agrees to keep it secret and refuses to reveal the alibi to Callahan. Impressed by her loyalty and integrity, Vivian starts to befriend Elle, also admitting that Warner was put on Harvard's wait-list and only got in because his father pulled some strings. Elle also becomes disillusioned with Warner when he suggests she reveal Brooke's alibi and break her friend's trust just to further her career.
The case against Brooke begins to weaken when Elle deduces that the cabana boy is gay after he correctly identifies Elle's shoe style. Callahan brushes off Elle's deduction as unfounded and ridiculous, but during the cross-examination, Emmett tricks him into identifying his boyfriend to the court, proving that his testimony about having an affair with Brooke was a lie.
Impressed by her performance, Callahan discusses Elle's future with her and then makes sexual advances on her, which Elle immediately rejects. Overhearing part of the conversation, Vivian confronts Elle, thinking she was sleeping with Callahan to get ahead in her career. Frustrated with the lack of respect she's getting, Elle decides to leave law school, but not before she tells Emmett about Callahan's advances. While saying good-bye to Paulette at the nail salon, Professor Stromwell, who's there getting her hair done, intervenes and reinvigorates Elle's desire to be successful in law school by implying that she actually greatly respects Elle and was once in her position. Meanwhile, Emmett explains Elle's encounter with Callahan to Vivian and Brooke. Brooke is enraged and Vivian is horrified at her mistake. Before the trial continues, Brooke dismisses Callahan and hires Elle as her new attorney with Emmett supervising.
Elle begins shakily cross-examining Chutney, who testifies that she was home during her father's murder, but did not hear the gunshot because she was in the shower washing her hair after getting her hair permed earlier that day. Elle's confidence suddenly spikes upon hearing this, and asks Chutney how long she'd been getting perms, to which Chutney reveals several years. Elle then reveals that Chutney could not have been in the shower because washing permed hair within the first 24 hours would have deactivated the ammonium thioglycolate, and not only were Chutney's curls still intact, but also someone who gets regular perms should be well aware of this fact. Confronted, Chutney reveals in a frenzy that she accidentally killed Hayworth because she thought he was Brooke, whom she hated for marrying her father because she was Chutney's age. Following the outburst, Brooke is exonerated, and Chutney is arrested. After the trial, Warner tries to reconcile with Elle, but she rejects him, explaining that she needs a boyfriend who is less of a "bonehead" if she is to be successful in her new career.
Two years later, Elle, who has graduated with high honors, is the class-elected speaker at the ceremony, and has been invited into one of Boston's best law firms; Vivian is now Elle's best friend and has called off her engagement with Warner, who graduated without honors, no girlfriend, and no job offers; Paulette has married the delivery man and is expecting a baby girl to be named after Elle; and finally, Emmett has started his own practice, is now Elle's boyfriend, and will propose to her that night.
- Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, a bubbly, intelligent and outgoing sorority girl
- Luke Wilson as Emmett Richmond, a young attorney and Elle's love interest
- Selma Blair as Vivian Kensington, a law student who initially sees Elle a threat
- Matthew Davis as Warner Huntington III, Elle's ex-boyfriend
- Victor Garber as Professor Callahan, a Harvard law professor
- Jennifer Coolidge as Paulette Bonafonté (and later Parcelle), Elle's manicurist and confidante
The cast also includes:
- Holland Taylor as Professor Stromwell, a Harvard law professor
- Ali Larter as Brooke Taylor-Windham, a famous fitness instructor accused of murdering her husband
- Jessica Cauffiel and Alanna Ubach as Margot and Serena, fellow sorority sisters and close friends of Elle
- Oz Perkins as "Dorky" David Kidney, a shy, kind law student Elle befriends
- Linda Cardellini as Chutney Windham, Brooke's stepdaughter
- Raquel Welch as Mrs. Windham-Vandermark, Chutney's mother and Mr. Windham's ex-wife
- Bruce Thomas as Paulette's UPS delivery man
- Francesca Roberts as criminal court judge Marina R. Bickford
- Meredith Scott Lynn as Enid Wexler, a law student and outspoken feminist
Hip hop choreographers Napoleon and Tabitha D'umo choreographed the "Bend and Snap" routine before they achieved greater fame as choreographers for the hit Fox show So You Think You Can Dance.
Although the film's setting is Harvard University, it was actually filmed at the University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, California Institute of Technology, and Rose City High School in Pasadena, California. The graduation scene is filmed at Dulwich College, in London, England, since Reese Witherspoon was at the time filming her next project (The Importance of Being Earnest) in that city. The real Harvard only appears briefly in certain aerial shots.
The producers intentionally gave Elle a different hairstyle for every scene.
The movie appears to make several subtle shout-outs to John Grisham novels, most humorously with the names of Elle's and Paulette's dogs—Bruiser and Rufus—who both share names with Grisham's sleazy attorney characters—Elle's chihuahua apparently being named after J. Lyman "Bruiser" Stone from the novel The Rainmaker, and Paulette's bulldog after District Attorney Rufus Buckley from A Time to Kill. Additionally, Grisham's novel The Pelican Brief features its own Professor Callahan with a penchant for inappropriate relationships with law students. The opening song and main theme, "Perfect Day", was performed by Hoku.
Legally Blonde was released on July 13, 2001, in North America. Its opening-weekend gross of $20 million made it a sleeper hit for the struggling MGM studio, and it went on to gross $96.5 million in North America and $45.2 million internationally for a worldwide total of $141.7 million.
The film was also a critical success. Based on 130 reviews collected by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 68% of the critics gave Legally Blonde positive ratings, ranking the film as "fresh". Most reviews praised Reese Witherspoon's lead performance, although some denigrated the overall merit of the film. Metacritic reported that the film had an average score of 59, based on 31 reviews. At the 2001 Golden Globe Awards ceremony, the film was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy, and Witherspoon was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy.
- "Watch Me Shine" by Joanna Pacitti
- "Sound of Milwaukee" by Fatboy Slim
- "Can't Get Me Down" by Lo-Ball
- "We Could Still Belong Together" by Lisa Loeb
- "Don't Need You To (Tell Me I'm Pretty)" by Samantha Mumba
- "One Girl Revolution" by Superchick
- "Magic" by The Black Eyed Peas featuring Terry Dexter
- "Sex Machine" by Mýa
- "That's the Way (I Like It)" by KC and the Sunshine Band
- "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate
- "Get Down on It" by Kool & the Gang
- "Love Is a Beautiful Thing" by Krystal
- "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton
- "Baby, Come on Over" by Samantha Mumba
- "Perfect Day" by Hoku
- "Ooh La La" by Valeria
In 2007, a musical adaptation premiered on Broadway to mixed reviews, starring Laura Bell Bundy as Elle, Christian Borle as Emmett, Orfeh as Paulette, Nikki Snelson as Brooke, Richard H. Blake as Warner, Kate Shindle as Vivienne, and Michael Rupert as Callahan. Other cast members included Andy Karl, Leslie Kritzer, Annaleigh Ashford, DeQuina Moore, and Natalie Joy Johnson. The show, Bundy, Borle, and Orfeh were all nominated for Tony Awards. Later, the Broadway show was the focus of an MTV reality TV series called Legally Blonde – The Musical: The Search for Elle Woods, in which the winner would take over the role of Elle on Broadway. Bailey Hanks from Anderson, South Carolina, won the competition.
Legally Blonde had a successful three-year run at the Savoy Theatre in London's West End which starred Sheridan Smith, Susan McFadden and Carley Stenson as Elle and Duncan James, Richard Fleeshman, Simon Thomas and Ben Freeman as Warner. The cast over the three-year run has also included Alex Gaumond, Denise Van Outen and Lee Mead.
- Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003) – the sequel to the film.
- Legally Blonde: The Musical (2007) – the musical based on the film
- Legally Blondes (2009) – the spin-off to the film
- "Legally Blonde". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
- Scott, A. O. (13 July 2001). "Legally Blonde (2001) Film Review; A Rich Ditz Has Both Brains and the Last Laugh". New York Times. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
- Allen, Jamie (December 20, 2001). "Globes: "Beautiful", "Moulin" golden". CNN. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
- "USC Campus Filming Office". Retrieved November 22, 2007.
- "121 Reasons Why UCLA is an Amazing Place". Retrieved June 3, 2008.
- "Stanford On Screen". Retrieved July 8, 2012.
- "Legally Blonde (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 12, 2006.
- "Legally Blonde: Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
- Milt, Amber (June 8, 2012). "15 Years of Reese Witherspoon". Fox News Network, LLC. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
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- Legally Blonde at the Internet Movie Database
- Legally Blonde at AllMovie
- Legally Blonde at Rotten Tomatoes
- Legally Blonde at Box Office Mojo