Where to begin?
Elle Woods (Witherspoon) is the queen of her LA world. She’s president of her sorority where she’s loved by all, she has 4.0 in college, and she is “seriously” in love with hunky Warner Kensington (Davis). Unfortunately, Warner’s character is the sort of one-sided slimy prick that exists only in movies, so he dumps her instead of proposing to her, and in order to get him back Woods must follow him to Harvard Law School. There, much fish-out of-water humor ensues as West Coast style clashes with East Coast tweed. The outcome of the story is painfully apparent from the introduction of Emmet (Wilson) and most of the plot progression is limited to a tired series of brief one-joke scenes and montages. I for one have no problem with that; after all it’s a comedy, right?
Wrong, this movie is tremendously unfunny. I was never a big fan of CLUELESS, which this movie pays frequent homage to, but I found it funny in large parts. Every way in which that movie was subtle and nuanced, this movie is flat and obvious. Witherspoon’s character is sickeningly cute. Not cute like the Power Puff Girls or Mickey Mouse, but more like the Pepsi girl. So cute you could scream. Everything she wears is bright and everything she does is ditzy. Oh, but she’s not really ditzy, she just pretends to be. In fact, she’s a genius lawyer hidden in Versace’s and Gucci’s, which she proves by gaining entrance to Harvard Law with almost laughable ease. Then she proceeds to shock the Ivy League with her madcap antics and sorority girl shenanigans. The first half-hour is composed of several scenes that all end in law students staring at her in bewilderment. It gets old, fast. Then later when it’s time for her to prove herself to everyone she simply turns on the montage and the MTV pop song and proceeds to become a genius through a few seconds of narrative. Of course, it IS a comedy, so plot holes and conventions are acceptable as long as it’s good, clean fun, right?
Actually it’s not even that. The movie is shockingly biased and close-minded. The tagline for the movie could very well have been “West Coast rules, East Coast sucks.” All the Harvard students are stuck-up and narrow-minded, not to mention fashion-challenged, at least by LA standards. The message of this movie seems to be that you should have faith in yourself, at least that’s what Witherspoon dumps on the camera in the closing scene, but if you actually watch the movie, the “message” becomes abundantly clear. Pretty people can become smart, but smart people will always be ugly. There’s just nothing they can do about the way they were born. The situation only becomes worse when the script neatly wraps homosexual and Latino generalizations into one key witness. Unfortunately, this movie carries a PG-13 rating so there’s nothing stopping impressionable teens from seeing it. But it’s Reese Witherspoon, that’s got to be worth the price of admission, right?
It’s intensely sad to see Reese Witherspoon making this movie. ELECTION will always be the pinnacle of modern teen movies and PLEASANTVILLE was also a very wise career move. This movie just slaps a generalization on her. One that I hope doesn’t carry over to other films. I wish I could believe that Luke Wilson wasn’t in this movie and it was just some cardboard cut-out. Lord knows he acted like one, but there’s no denying it, this BOTTLE ROCKET star is just collecting checks now. Selma Blair is . . . Selma Blair. The most consistent character is Warner, but that’s because sleaze is very easy to play consistently. But what if I like my movies to suck hard, I should enjoy this graceless blender of crap, right?
Perhaps I’m being to hard on it. There are moments of humor, but even a blind hog gets an acorn every once in a while. Most of the movie’s funniest moments appear to be totally unintentional. The line, “I wanna be a Senator by the age of 30” is not a meant as a joke, but it yielded my biggest laugh of the night (read the Constitution). The courtroom scenes are as accurate as a paraplegic sniper, but once you get to that point in the movie you’ll only be scratching your eyeballs screaming for a sudden and unexpected conclusion, anyway.