Thursday, October 21, 2004

Movie Review: Mean Girls (2004)

A film by Mark S Waters

Being a teenaged movie starring Lindsay Lohan, "Mean Girls" was going to be a moderately successful movie no matter how funny or well made the movie actually was. It was aimed at a target demographic of teenaged girls (and perhaps teenage males who just want to look at Lindsay Lohan) and this demographic was going to see this movie. As I am not part of the target demographic and do not understand the whole Lindsay Lohan phenomenon, "Mean Girls" was something that initially held no interest to me. That was, until, I found out that the screenplay was written by Tina Fey. Fey is the best thing about Saturday Night Live (she is one of the head writers as well as co-host of "Weekend Update") and her writing hopefully would raise "Mean Girls" above being just another not very good teen movie. Mostly, it did.

Cady (Lindsay Lohan) was home schooled for her entire life up until this, her junior year of high school. To make her even more of a potential outcast she has been living in Africa because her parents were researchers there. When she arrives she immediately befriends social misfits Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and her very gay friend Damian (Daniel Franzese). Janis and Damian show Cady the ropes and explain the school's social structure to her. Janis points out the various groups and how the cafeteria seating arrangements are organized. There are the math geeks, the stoners, the hot asian girls, other groups, and The Plastics. The Plastics rule the school. The Plastics are the glamorous social elites who by their actions decide what and who is cool. The leader of the Plastics and the Queen Bee of the school is Regina (Rachel McAdams). Regina, along with the other Plastics Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried) also befriend Cady. They see Cady as something of an exotic and probably enjoy her ignorance as much as anything else and they see that Cady has not yet become a part of any other group. But Janis and Damian have another plan, that Cady infiltrate the Plastics and report back all the gossip on them so the gossip and information can be used against the Plastics. When Regina steals away the guy that Cady is interested in (who was Regina's ex anyway), Cady decides to get even.

One of the best things about "Mean Girls" is the comparison it makes between high school and the animal kingdom. The comparison is apt because it reflects Cady's perspective coming from being home schooled in Africa. Fights and slights and intimidation take on a more animalistic aura, which is made obvious through Cady's daydream imaginations of what is going on underneath the surface of a given situation. Tina Fey's writing has the viciously sarcastic bite that we also see on Weekend Update (some lines and jokes feel like they have been lifted directly from SNL), but she has also done an excellent job in taking a non-fiction book about girls in high school ("Queen Bees and Wannabees") and turn it into a fairly intelligent, funny, entertaining movie. Fey is also one of the movie's highlights as math teacher Ms Norbury.

"Mean Girls" does lose focus, however, and is maybe only have of a really good movie. The other half is simply any other teenaged high school movie. It is far superior to "She's All That" but does fall short of being as viciously interesting as something like "Heathers". The trap that it falls into is that instead of being clever and unique the entire way through the movie, "Mean Girls" becomes the same petty high school revenge movie (though with the Fey twist). The extra coda of an ending narrated by Cady doesn't help "Mean Girls" be any less ordinary.

"Mean Girls" is far better than I had expected it to be (not being part of the film's demographic) but it is not quite as good as it could have been. Still, I was very entertained by this movie and I did enjoy it. It was funny, sharp, and it is good enough that a general audience can enjoy "Mean Girls".

1 comment:

Reel Popcorn Junkie said...

Good to see Lohan's work here before her person troubles started several years later. There are some very funny lines here. Parents who don't tame their kids are criticized here too with actions of Mrs. George (Amy Poehler).