Retro Review: Mean Girls

Who were you in high school? Were you the jock, the spaz, the nerd, the rebel or maybe the drama queen? Back in those days we all seemed to be labeled and forced to coexist in a socially acceptable clique.

And it seems for the rest of our lives we are always trying to emerge from that labeled existence. Why is that?

There have been a lot of films in recent years that have taken a look at those cliques and offered social commentary or just plain made fun of them.

In the new comedy “Mean Girls”, we are once more exposed to the lighter side of “teen” world with a revenge subplot thrown in for fun.

The film finds new-girl Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) arriving at North Shore High. Cady has been home-schooled, lived in Africa most of her life and knows very little about the teen hierarchy.

Upon her arrival, Cady quickly becomes friends with social rejects Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) until one fateful day where Cady is asked to join the elitist group called “The Plastics” for lunch. The Plastics are three of the most popular girls in school, Regina (Rachel McAdams), Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried), and evil to the core.

After her luncheon with high-school infamy, Cady teams up with her socially rejected friends and devises a plan to bring down the “mean” Plastics. For their plan to work Cady must go undercover within the elite clique. Can Cady bring victory for the socially repressed? Or will the allure of high-school stardom tempt her more? And how does her feelings for Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett) play into the master plan?

“Mean Girls” probably falls closer to the just-for-laughs style of “Clueless” than the social commentary of say the darker teen-angst films of this genre like the classic “Heathers” or the crass “Jawbreakers”.

“Freaky Friday” director Mark S. Waters and brilliant SNL writer Tina Fey do craft an interesting story and do deliver a lot of laughs but the film doesn’t seem to know what direction to pursue as it enters its third act.

As heroine Cady seems to be pulled to the dark-side the film’s core mission seems to be left high and dry. The laughs become fewer and a rather painful “gym” scene ensues. After that I was lost.

I wanted a really fun, zany and “mean” revenge comedy from the oodles of talent that are housed within this film. I would have loved to have seen McAdams play Regina even meaner so that we could hate her more. I also wanted to know more about the social rejects and if Cady could actually be comfortable there. In some ways I wanted the film to play more with Cady and her struggle to find a clique for her.

I really did enjoy a lot of screenwriter Tina Fey’s dialogue and how she dealt with the internal rumblings within the social elite. Fey is so talented and one of the few hi-lites of the fading late-night juggernaut, “Saturday Night Live”.

She is so crassy, point-blank and hilarious on the show that I hope she will continue to do more movie scripts. I know there are a lot of comedy genres out there that could use a little Fey.

I was also surprised by how hooked I got on some of the lesser performances in the film like Tim Meadows as the principal or Lacey Chabert as the “blabber-mouth” plastic, Gretchen. These performances weren’t a leading one but still should be recognized.

I liked them because they were the flipside to a “Regina” or “Cady” and gave us a new perspective on the film. Chabert was brilliant in a lot of her supporting scenes to both McAdams and Lohan.

Aside with a couple story direction problems and a flat finale, “Mean Girls” is a fun and hilarious teen comedy. Just wanted more sass.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Mean Girls

  1. Agreed, Castor. Rachel McAdams was the poo. Perfectly, sinfully, cheerfully evil and I loved it. But Lizzy Caplan was a close second. I loved her remark about seeing teachers outside of school: “It’s like watching a dog walk on its hind legs.” I mean, how can you NOT love a teen comedy with zingers like that?

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