77. Legally Blonde

Legally Blonde is what I like to think of as a Chicken Soup movie. It’s something you watch when you’re sick at home, when you want something familiar and fun but isn’t that challenging, something you can drift in and out of with a simple story structure and likable characters. It soothes you, it heals you. It isn’t great, but it’s really, really good.

Why is Legally Blonde such a comforting movie? Well, it has to do with its very basic story structure, which is actually covered at length in Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book Save the Cat. Pretty much, and I’m paraphrasing here, Legally Blonde follows your typical “how to write a good screenplay notes to a T.” We have a central character who undergoes some sort of change (Elle), a desire that that character has and wants to accomplish but there are obstacles in her way (peers who don’t take her seriously, feelings for an ex, troubles with handling a case), a support group for Elle (Luke Wilson, her law peers, her manicurist) and a B story underneath the A story (The manicurist’s affection for the delivery guy.) None of this is overly complex, but it has such a strong story core that we end up clinging to it, even though nothing about it is overly remarkable. Legally Blonde is just like The Wedding Singer or Elf or even Back to the Future: their story structure is simple and engaging and it creates immense replay value, even though the story itself is nothing remarkable (save for Back to the Future.)

But one thing that is remarkable about Legally Blonde though is Reese Witherspoon, who bursts with charisma and kindliness, not afraid to be a goof but ultimately is everyone’s best friend at the end of the day. Elle Woods is literally a role only Reese could play, and the film is all the better for it.

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