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“A Few Good Men” it isn’t. But for what it’s worth, “Legally Blonde,” which opened Friday, does manage to elevate courtroom comedy to a level worthy of praise. Based on the soon-to-be-released book by Amanda Brown, “Legally Blonde” is Australian director Robert Luketic’s first U.S. feature film. Luketic takes what could easily have slipped into the mold of this summer’s painfully bad movies and creates a smart, witty account of a young woman defiantly overcoming dubious odds through hard work and dedication. And he does it with style, hilariously depicting society stereotypes. Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a goal-oriented woman. The fashion design major at the fictional California University wants nothing more than to graduate from college with her M.R.S. and blue blood Hunter Worthington III’s six-carat Harry Winston ring set squarely on her finger. The plan would be perfect except that Hunter (Matthew Davis) decides to break up with Elle before leaving for Harvard Law School. Worthington wants to become a senator before he is 30, and he’s looking for his Jackie; Elle is “just too Marilyn.” He needs someone more serious, more stable and much less blond. A breakdown, two manicures, and several boxes of bonbons later, Elle is determined to win back Hunter’s love. But to do that, she must attend Harvard Law with him to prove just how smart and serious she can be. But Elle’s Beverly Hills father winces over his martini as he tells her that “law school is for people who are ugly and boring — not my little girl.” In this rendition of “Clueless” meets “My Cousin Vinny,” Elle parlays her fashion sense and sorority-princess extracurricular activities (including an appearance in a Ricky Martin video) into an acceptance to the school. After all, Harvard Law is all about student-body diversity. But “ostracized” doesn’t come close to describing the chilly welcome that pink-suited Elle receives from the drably dressed crowd at Harvard’s orientation. To add insult to injury, Hunter reunites with his very East Coast, very un-blond prep-school sweetheart, Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair), who sports his diamond all over Harvard Square. Elle realizes she no longer wants the irritably unsuave, emotionally abrasive Hunter back in her life and has a change of heart. She wants instead to prove him and the rest of the campus wrong and show that she can survive law school. With a semester of administrative law under her belt, Elle lands a much-coveted position of intern with a top defense attorney in Boston, along with Hunter and Vivian. The lawyer just happens to be defending a high-profile, gold-digging Beverly Hills aerobics instructor against the charge of first-degree murder. Throughout the case, Elle uses her Cosmo-girl intuition and sorority sisterhood to prove herself to Professor Callahan (Victor Garber), Hunter and Vivian, as well as to Callahan’s associate, Emmett (Luke Wilson). Ultimately, Elle has the pleasure of informing Hunter that if she wants to make partner before she’s 30, she needs to marry someone who is much less of a bonehead. The courtroom scenes, though unrealistic, entertain with their sheer lunacy; but it is Elle’s Harvard classmates and lectures that provide the majority of entertainment in this legal romp. At a brief ice-breaker session of the class of 2004, a Wharton MBA, the coordinator of LADD (Lesbians Against Drunk Driving) and the man solely responsible for deworming children in Somalia introduce themselves. Elle’s contribution: Two weeks ago she saw Cameron Diaz buying this hideous angora sweater in Fred Segal and deftly talked her out of buying it, since orange is “definitely not the new pink.” Witherspoon’s depiction of Elle as the perfect blonde avoids the irritation that her character could easily evoke were it played by a lesser actress. Recalling her syrupy-sweet-to-a-fault role in “Election,” Witherspoon easily slipped into the role of Elle without becoming annoying. Though touted as a college-age film, “Legally Blonde” is worth seeing, especially given this summer’s collection of poor showings at the movie theater. It may not win any Oscars, but it will guarantee fun-loving entertainment for two hours.

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