Armed with the knowledge Mean Girls was scripted by Tina Fey, Saturday Night Lives head writer and one half of the team that brought SNLs Weekend Update skits back to life, I was really looking forward to a sharply written, tell-it-like-it-is, teen movie. And while parts of it were as good as I expected, it didnt quite have the bite to it I associate with Feys writing style.
Tina Fey possesses a scathing wit and the ability to craft pointed dialogue and jokes that skewer politicians and celebrities alike, but her feature film screenwriting debut has a few moments when it pulls back instead of going for the kill. Those moments lessen the overall fun of the film, however Mean Girls does do the wicked teen girl movie subgenre justice, coming in behind the cult fav, Heathers, but well in front of the misfiring Jawbreaker.
Lindsay Lohan stars as Cady (pronounced Katie), an intelligent student who leaves the safety of home schooling in Africa to venture into the jungle we know as a modern American high school. Cadys unfamiliar with social cliques, unfamiliar with the strategic seating arrangements in school cafeterias, and, above all, shes unfamiliar with mean girls (known as the 'The Plastics' at this particular school). If you dont get what theyre all about from that descriptive name, then youve never been to an American school and watched the perfect Barbie Dolls who seem to never get zits, always sport the latest fashion trends, and basically rule the school.
At the urging of the only people who will speak to her when she first arrives outsiders Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) Cady pretends to be formed out of the Plastic mold, and soon finds herself assuming the characteristics she most despises. Turning from a straight-A student - a nice girl with a sweet innocence about her - into a fake, self-absorbed follower, Cady backstabs, manipulates, and lies in an effort to compete with the Queen of Mean, Regina George (Rachel McAdams). Cady and Regina wage war over Reginas ex (Jonathan Bennett), leaving a path of emotionally devastated fellow students in their wake.
Mean Girls works best when it lets the girls get down and dirty. When Cadys imagination runs wild and she envisions herself attacking The Plastics, thats when Mean Girls really hits the mark. Feys captured how teen girls feel but cant act. But the film hits a snag when Cady transforms into a Plastic and doesnt pick back up until the last ½ hour or so. The Plastic period feels false and doesnt have charm of the rest of the film.
With her starring turn in Mean Girls, Lindsay Lohan breaks from the pack of squeaky clean young actresses. Distancing herself from Hilary Duff and others of her ilk, Lohan once again proves shes the real thing. Sure, she can do the family-friendly comedies, but she can also play the vixen, a nice switch-up that bodes well for her acting life after the teen film years are over. Lohan teamed with Mean Girls director Mark S. Waters before for the comedy hit, Freaky Friday, and the two really seem to bring out the best in one another.
Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Franzese complement Lohan onscreen, the three bringing the real world of teens outside the popular mix to life in a believable fashion. Rachel McAdams plays Regina just mean enough to be disliked but not rotten enough to alienate the audience. Supporting Plastic members Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried) are like back-up singers, important to the overall mix but not really given enough time in the limelight. Karens a dimwit, Gretchen believes shes the pretty one, and both Chabert and Seyfried are terrific at keeping the two characters from being totally lost in the background.
Dont get me wrong, Mean Girls is fun and itll probably find its place with the targeted audience. Maybe I just went in with my hopes too high. In which case, anything but another Heathers would be a complete letdown. Mean Girls is enjoyable and the cast (including "SNL" alum Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, and Fey) makes this high school flick a cut about the norm. And most importantly, the movies message of being yourself gets through clearly without being obnoxiously intrusive.
"Mean Girls" was directed by Mark S. Waters and is based on the novel, "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence." "Mean Girls" is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and some teen partying.