Mean Girls (2004)
Release Date: April 30th, 2004 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Mark Waters Actors: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Lacey Chabert, Lizzy Caplan, Amanda Seyfried
ean Girls” is somewhat of a phenomenon in the way that it connects to (for the most part) girls of all ages while also maintaining at least nominal appeal for everyone else. It’s rated PG-13 and yet much younger and much older audiences seem to appreciate the relatable material. Even if the main character is too attractive to be believable as a misfit, the theme of staying true to oneself and the comic examinations of fitting in, struggling with popularity (or the lack thereof), and comprehending high school cliques are ideas few teens can avoid during standard adolescence. Written by “Saturday Night Live” veteran Tina Fey, “Mean Girls” is perhaps the most universal, notable project Lindsay Lohan has starred in (so far).
Cady (Lindsay Lohan) was raised and homeschooled in Africa by her zoologist parents – giving her an advantage when it comes to intelligence, but a handicap when it comes to socializing with peers in the callous modernity of the United States. Her father gets a job in Illinois, causing relocation to Evanston Township High School for a taste of the public education system. She seems to handle herself well in front of adults, such as teacher Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey), who reversely always embarrasses herself in front of the students. But when it comes to hanging out with the “cool” people, dressing fashionably, or courting guys with the correct school politics associations, she’s terribly naïve.
Right off the bat, Cady befriends two of the would-be losers in the school, Janis (Lizzy Caplin), a goth who likes to judge classmates while eating in the cafeteria, and Damian (Daniel Franzese), a large, relaxed boy who is admittedly “too gay to function.” Soon, Cady is warned about the “Plastics,” the A-list group of gorgeous girls who sit at the top of the food chain when it comes to popularity – but she’s eventually drawn into their circle nonetheless, partly to act as a spy for Janis, and chiefly because Cady is enchanted by the overwhelming idolization they experience. Led by “Queen Bee” Regina (Rachel McAdams), and consisting of followers Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried), the Plastics are out to corrupt and destroy Cady’s reputation when the hapless newcomer starts to fall for Regina’s ex-boyfriend.
“Mean Girls” is startlingly genuine when it comes to dialogue, stereotypes, coteries, and high school drama. This is a plus for Fey’s adaptation work, though the source material, a book by Rosalind Wiseman, certainly sounds authentic and influential: “Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence.” Fortunately, the whole approach doesn’t alienate as much as it entertains, bestowed with a glimmer of wit at every youthful tragedy or hurdle.
The same is not true for Fey’s character, which is largely out-of-place considering the unlikeliness of her attitude – primarily when she’s called into the auditorium to negotiate peace terms amongst an entire school of betrayed kids. Similarly, the invasive alternate reality scenes, in which students are transformed into primitive primates (to demonstrate how problems would be resolved in the animal kingdom, a world Cady understands with greater clarity), are odd at best, while a recognizable cast of SNL alumni fail to add laughs. Effective humor does find its way into the film, however, if only because of the naturally hilarious, awkward, and all-too-familiar situations that frequent young-adulthood.
– Mike Massie