A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Crime fiction sometimes achieves the status of serious literature: Raymond Chandler's private eye novels, for example.
Elmore Leonard and Anne Rice are said to have the touch of the artist. Quite possibly true. John Grisham, current king of the best-seller lists, is also taken seriously in some quarters, but I'm not sure why. His plots are no better or worse than average, and his characters are at their service. His novels exist to be filmed. His next, for example, has been sold to the movies before being written.
"The Pelican Brief" is the Christmas Grisham, halfway round the year from "The Firm," which was the Fourth of July Grisham. It is about as good, but in a different way. While "The Firm" was a muscular thriller with action sequences, "The Pelican Brief" takes place more quietly, in corners, shadows and secret hotel rooms. True, it has a few bomb explosions and chases, but by Grisham standards it's claustrophobic.
It's an old law of the movies that ordinary novels are easier to film than great ones, because the director doesn't have to worry about the writer's message and style, if any. "The Pelican Brief" is a good illustration of that principle. By casting attractive stars in the leads, by finding the right visual look, by underlining the action with brooding, ominously sad music, a good director can create the illusion of meaning even when nothing's there.