Mean Girls

on April 30, 2004 by Christine James
Uh…didn't I just review this movie? Lindsay Lohan is a sweet, pretty, quirky new girl at school who butts heads with the popular clique, acts uncharacteristically selfish, betrays a true friend, learns lessons, bursts into song and wears cute outfits? About two-and-a-half stars' worth of laughs? It's déjà vu all over again as this tween comedy follows closely on the designer heels of Lohan's "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," not to mention the cut-from-the-same-flouncy-cloth "13 Going on 30" and "Ella Enchanted."

Here, Lohan is Cady, a 16-year-old who has been home-schooled all her life while growing up in the wilds of Africa with her zoologist parents. A family move to Chicago means a whole new life for Cady, whose complete lack of culture shock would make one think the plains of the Serengeti are chock-a-block with Urban Outfitters and Wetzel's Pretzels. The most confusing thing for Cady is high school, whose social dynamics she compares, in a series of on-the-nose fantasy analogies, to the interactions of jungle beasts. Equally unsubtle are the cliques she's introduced to, including the Plastics (i.e. the new millennium Heathers), the jocks, the burnouts, the art freaks and all the rest you've already seen lampooned in "Clueless" and every other teen movie ever.

Cady is quickly befriended by the eccentrically garbed, acid-tongued but good-humored Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan)--who, one gathers from her name, is the sort of girl who "learned the truth at 17/That love was made for beauty queens"--and her "almost too gay to function" unflappable best pal Damian (Daniel Franzese, whose low-key comic timing gets the most out of the film's funniest lines). They form a plan in which Cady will infiltrate the Plastics, who have accepted her based on her attractiveness, and report back on all their inane behavior. However, the impressionable Cady, dazzled by her new prestige status, is sucked into the Plastic world, only to be betrayed. Cady, Janis and Damian launch a scheme to get back at Plastic leader Regina (Rachel McAdams). But director Mark Waters' pacing is off and the revenge never builds a satisfying momentum.

Meanwhile, Cady steps into the role of the Plastics' deposed queen bee and morphs into a Regina clone. Not until she's earned everyone's hatred--and the school's factions have been pitted against each other in a screeching, punching, clawing denouement--does Cady snap out of it and revert to goody-two-shoeism, deigning to bestow compliments upon the wheelchair-bound girl and the fat girl in a bout of hubris-soaked altruism.

One assumes the over-the-top characterizations are meant to be hyperbolic and tongue-in-cheek, but scripter Tina Fey (TV's "Saturday Night Live") doesn't strive to convey anything more than the seemingly incontrovertible facts that bands geeks are grotesque, Asians are either nerds or fiery dragon-ladies and dwarves are fair game. Starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese and Tina Fey. Directed by Mark Waters. Written by Tina Fey. Produced by Lorne Michaels. A Paramount release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and some teen partying. Running time: 97 min

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