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Legally Blonde 2

Seen: 2003.07.03   ¶   Reviewed: 2003.07.06

I simply loathed Legally Blonde, with its dumb-arse non-sequiturs and weird gay stereotypes. It did not try hard enough to be girly light entertainment. Romy & Michelle’s High-School Reunion should have been the model there.

But that’s all been fixed. The key to the magic is a resolute certainty in Reese Witherspoon’s delivery. Elle Woods: Nonstupid fashion plate who accentuates the positive. You simply can’t assume that someone with fashion obsessions is dumb as a plank. Nor does a 1990s accent immediately guarantee a lack of intelligence. (It’s more of a girl problem. I’m sure you’ve talked to young women of various ages who sound like they could only have come from the 1990s. They’re hard to take seriously, even when they have expertise on a particular topic. It’s the voice.)

In fact, there’s nothing I like better than a well-turned-out, articulate, worldly, high-function person of any gender or sexualism who is also competent. I was just talking about this with Emma Jane at the Webstandards.TO meeting. She’s a perfect example. Much less girly than either R. Witherspoon or E. Woods, but the pattern is the same. My friend Michel Blondeau is also a fine example.

And you’re all too apt to forget that Elle is competent. She is, after all, a lawyer. Possibly ditzy in other ways (multiple intelligences, remember), but a lawyer nonetheless. There’s knowledge and there’s maturity, and in the course of this light entertainment, she gains the latter. Without much treacle, really. “Never underestimate a woman with a French manicure and a Harvard law degree.” Testify, sister. (Or, in this case, Sally Field.)

It is, after all, only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. But beyond that, I expect you to perform.

Now: Can somebody explain to me how they managed to get a subplot of gay dogs through the studio system? And our right-wing NRA senator was lightly satirical. I kept thinking of Heathers: “I love my dead gay son!” “My dog is of a homosexual orientation. There! I’m out!”

And whenever Elle summed up a sticky situation in a relentlessly optimistic and sunny manner, I thought to myself: Why can’t I do that?

Light entertainment. Don’t knock it.

Theatre experience

It was Ms S’s birthday, but along for the ride was her niece, Little Miss N. I was waiting for them to arrive when, all of a sudden, who walks in but a young man with a white cane wearing a yellow Bad Religion T-shirt. They are nominally my favourite band, you know. I’m accustomed to a lot of coincidences in my life, but really, what are the odds?

The young fella, who was maybe 18, was accompanied by what was obviously his mom. I walked over, introduced myself, and chatted them up. It’s about his fourth described movie, and he confidently stated he couldn’t imagine anything in the descriptions he could complain about. I told him I figured he was there to see T3. Good call. There was then a further discussion of how I was stuck watching Legally Blonde. He did, however, gripe about the available range of described videos, which tend to be about American presidents in the ’40s.

I gave him my inaccessible card (the red one – I should have used the blue) and found out that, lo and behold, he’s one of those super-l33t blind kids who can read Braille. (A truly accessible card is a gatefold, with regular print, large print, and the full text of the regular print reproduced in Braille. I expect to upgrade to such a card in 2003. At any rate, every blind person I meet is online, and at least one has refused a card because he already knows how to get a hold of me. It’s a weakness, but a considered and mitigated weakness.)

I was right gobsmacked.

No problem getting the gear upstairs, though my reflector was astonishingly scratched – the worst ever. We also got Little Miss N a headset.

The two of them went off to secure candy while I staked out seats. The place was packed with girls! girls! girls! in addition to the occasional cuckolded boyfriend roped into coming to the movie, plus one or two suspicious lone men. My row of 15-year-old girls looked with elaborate askance at the reflector... and me, of course. They would run out of and back into the house in various combinations up to and well into the movie, where they banged on the outside door three times, causing people to think there was some kind of explosion.

Caption quality

An extremely serious and unprecedented issue.

To my great surprise, it seems that MGM did not deliver a locked print of Legally Blonde 2 to GBH for captioning. I found several cases of post-postproduction audio sweetening, mostly when speakers were offscreen. I’ve never seen this before in MoPix, though we know all too well how often it happens on TV. Whenever people complain that the captioning is totally different from the audio, what really happened is the producers altered the audio after they sent the show out for captioning. Competent captioners re-edit the captions after that happens. There are no such captioners at work presently.

At show opening, “Her first high-end retail shopping experience” was uttered but not captioned. There was at least one other example I couldn’t jot down because I was too surprised.

The phrase “wouldn’t be the first time” was captioned as something else entirely, but I could not write down what.

Vocal music was not captioned – as Elle drives to Washington, during the wedding montage, and over closing credits.

(hammered dulcimer playing "America") was actually a conventional symphonic soundtrack piece.

The script said “Just spare fifty cents” but it was captioned – twice – as Just spare a quarter.

And there was another problem. The caption display had missing pixels – just a few here and there, in specific character positions. Never saw that before, either.

(cell phone chiming tune): Good rendering. How do you write it when people use a recognizable ringtone? (cell phone plays "La Macarena")?

-Oh, my God!

Those “two” utterances were both from Elle.

(organ playing "Charge") is in fact (organ playing "Call to the Post"), nu?

The headquarters of "Cosmopolitan" magazine: For the umpteenth time, in an all-roman display, the use of quotation marks for such titles does not work. Besides, later: Martha Stewart Weddings.

(mouthing) twice, though the captions were not moved to denote multiple similar utterances. Surely that must be possible in MoPix.

Okeydokey: Don’t we hyphenate that?

Lots of echt-WGBH screwups with numbers: H.R. dash 2-6-5-2. You realize it would take five hundred words to explain how wrong that is? Especially since, in a previous utterance, “HR-2652” was correctly rendered? And especially since one such number was viewed on an item onscreen, giving us a model to follow? We are not engaged in narrow phonetic transcription, and articulated punctuation like “slash” and “dash” needs to be rendered with the actual punctuation.


Slash can also mean “or.” Why not say “and”? I’ve seen exactly that in WGBH-captioned television programs.

Go Bruiser's Bill! Go! Again, vocative, whether you like it or not.

Description quality

The humane Pat Lentz is our narratrix.

“Behind her, an African-American woman in a sensible charcoal suit reads to a dowdy woman and a man in a sweater vest.” The charcoal business comes up later. This woman, too, sounds like she should be stupid, but actually is not.

Speaking of colours: “Representative Kroft’s raspberry-macaroon lips tremble as she sobs.” We had already covered her specific colour preference in the film’s gripping drama. “Fuchs joins in, clapping his well-moisturized hands”: But this one we can’t get away with. Fuchs was previously revealed to sleep wearing moisturizing gloves. But we have no provable visual evidence, particularly in this medium shot, that his hands are “well-moisturized.” Cute, but unsupportable.

“Now, Elle sashays into a salon lobby where Hauser reads a book.” Later, someone “flounces.”

“The female lobbyist inhales deeply.” So lobbyists are men by default unless we go out of our way to warn everyone of the bizarre exceptional case? Elsewhere, Elle is described as “the lawyer.” I think that’s too obscure, though it is a DVS habit. Don’t make us think.

“The last sister is a transvestite.” Sounds like a line to sample in a dance-music single.

“Remaining opening titles.”


No problems.

Exit interview

I barely won a game of table soccer with Little Miss N. Opted not to chat up the blind kid with the BR T-shirt.

The (entirely helpful and competent) playa started pulling a sock over the horribly-scratched reflector. I told him it should be taken out of service. I also had him call down the projectionist to mention the voided pixels. Must have damaged it when they moved it, he immediately muttered, yet again visibly embarrassed that the professionalism and competence of his operation had been sullied. Today, he was wearing an actual uniform, which I teased him about, and his frosted-blond hair was looking good.

We had a nice chat about how playaz never manage to find the time to Windex and care for the reflectors, and how Famous Players is completely cheap about anything resembling a maintenance budget. And that is in fact true: Famous wants us to be all impressed by its expensive commitment to accessibility (“ ‘We have invested $1 million to date to make films more accessible to our deaf and hard-of-hearing, blind or visually-impaired audiences,’ said Andrew Sherbin, manager of corporate affairs for Famous Players” – Canadian Press, 2002.11.18) without bothering to clear up loose ends.

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