May 28, 2005
Mark S. Waters,
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese, Neil Flynn, Jonathan Bennett, Rajiv Surendra, Elana Shilling, Graham Kartna, ,
The knives are out for new girl Lindsay Lohan when she meets the meanest of the mean on her first day of high school.
Perhaps the dark side of American comedy hasn’t been killed off by the Ashton Kutchers and the Sean William Scotts after all. Mean Girls may be Heathers-lite, but it’s one of the best black comedies set around high-school in quite some time, favouring witty writing by Saturday Night Live graduate Tina Fey over gross-out gags or boob jokes. Well, mostly.
Based on non-fiction book ‘Queen Bees And Wannabes’ which took an amusing yet intelligent look at the complex social structures that occur in high-school, and adapted for the screen by Tina Fey (who also appears as Ms. Norbury), Mean Girls focuses on an elite group of girls who are as feared and loathed as they are popular. When newbie Cady arrives on the scene after spending her entire life in Africa and not knowing anything about school life, she throws the natural balance out of wack by making friends with weirdo Janis and ‘too gay to function’ Damian. Naturally the popular girls Regina, Gretchen and Karen see potential in Cady and snare her into their group whilst, unbeknownst to them, Cady is actually just playing along to gather ammo for Janis.
All the requisite teen touches are present – the moody principal, the nice teacher who gives out life lessons, the parties, the betrayals – but Fey is smart enough to know what works and what doesn’t in this genre. Lohan is a genuine star and it’s hard to gauge exactly where in the film she switches from innocent to full-blown ‘beyotch’, but it would also be nice to see her trying something other than comedy before she outstays her welcome. Chabert and Seyfried get their share of laughs (“It’s like I have a fifth sense or ESPN or something”) but the real trump here is Rachel McAdams. Even devout fans of Heathers will have to admit Doherty and co. can’t hold a candle to Regina’s scathing bitchiness. “I swear, that is the ugliest effing skirt I’ve ever seen,” she asides after just complimenting a girl on her good dress sense.
But perhaps Mean Girls has more in common with its beauty-queen sister Drop Dead Gorgeous rather than the usual teen fluff, as the competitive girls end up in neck braces or, in the films’ best running joke, Cady offers a weight-loss snack to McAdams that actually makes her gain weight. Betcha didn’t see that one on The O.C.
Director Mark S. Waters, who also made the successful Freaky Friday update with Lohan, seems to have hit upon a winning formula: innocent girl is corrupted, shown the error of her ways and makes a confessional speech at the end. But when it comes to structure in a teen movie, most have been lacking of late so let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. At the end of the (school) day, Mean Girls is concerned with making us laugh and succeeds admirably thanks to its clever writing and snazzy direction. Damian sums it up best when he says: “Glenn Coco? Four for you, Glenn Coco. You go Glenn Coco!”
When a line is cut from “masturbating with a hotdog” to “kissing a hotdog”, you realise Fey’s original script was even darker and thanks to her commentary with Lorne Michaels and Mark Waters you hear some other interesting anecdotes about what might have been. ‘So Fetch’ (Gretchen’s failed try at launching slang) is the deleted scene section that includes Cady’s trip to visit Regina after her ‘accident’, ‘Word Vomit’ is a decent gag reel (snigger), and there are featurettes on ‘The Politics of Girl World’, ‘Only The Strong Survive’ and ‘Plastic Fashion’. To round things off there’s the trailer and some TV Spots with the girls giving opinions on high school issues in character.
This DVD is, like, so fetch. I know, right?