Consistently amusing, Mean Girls, about teen queen angst and the horrors of high school, will hit home with its target audience while providing plenty of knowing laughs for adults and plenty to ogle for teenage boys.
If you've seen Heathers, Clueless or Jawbreaker, then you've seen Mean Girls. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) is the new girl, having moved from Africa where she was raised (one of many comic head-scratchers that goes nowhere), and now trying to win
friends in a hostile new high school environment. On the verge of becoming--gasp!--friends with two geeks, one gay and one Goth, she is invited to join ''The Plastics'' (Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried), the coolest girls on campus. When she develops an unfortunate crush on the head Plastics' ex-boyfriend (Jonathan Bennett), the girls declare war on each other and all hell breaks loose. Saturday Night Live regulars Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Tim Meadows and Ana Gasteyer fill in the adult roles, and Fey wrote the script as well.
Lohan has star power in spades, and enough going on behind the eyes to at least suggest the inner life and back story absent from the script. She conveys Cady's
sudden character changes with aplomb, and her comic timing is excellent. McAdams makes the biggest impression with the showiest ''Plastics'' role and is certainly someone to watch for in the future. Her Regina George is one of the funniest, nastiest high school girls since Election's Tracy Flick. Bennett is likeable in a one-note jock role, and Daniel Franzese and Lizzy Caplan are similarly stereotyped as the Gay
and the Goth, respectively. Of the adults, Poehler,
who is always funny, stands out as Regina's alcoholic, mini-skirted mother. Fey wisely and selflessly wrote herself a straight-man role as the calculus teacher. And Meadows as the principal, quite simply, has never
been funnier. Whether he has ever been funny before is another question.
To take on a project already burdened with two strikes--Teen Comedy and SNL Movie--is either a bold move or career suicide, but director Mark S. Waters doesn't need to worry. He does a nice job of staying out of the way, and tells the story simply without relying too heavily on fruit-flavored set design, drowning every scene in music, or ruining the witty laughs with too much slapstick. And it is a very witty script, sharply observed and rich in detail. (The Halloween party scene, showing every single girl wearing lingerie and a different set of animal ears, stands out.) Fey adapted sociologist Rosalind Wiseman's nonfiction
best-seller Queen Bees & Wannabees, and the interaction between the various species of teen is note perfect. That said, Fey seems to have been given a lot of leeway due to her stature on SNL, and it shows. One example: everyone has trouble pronouncing
Cady's name, which wasn't funny the first time and still isn't 500 times later. The movie also attempts to impart a message of female solidarity, but by building the characters on the same cookie-cutter stereotypes it denounces, its girl power is undermined. Plus, the movie seems cut to within an inch of its life. If it is possible for a comedy to move too quickly, Mean Girls does, as Waters furiously connects the dots without consideration for the characters or the audience. It's like watching schizophrenics at a track meet--but maybe that's the point.
Well shy of classic, Mean Girls lacks both Heathers' and Election's commitment to its darker instincts and Clueless' indelible characterizations, but it's still probably the best teen comedy in years, and certainly the best SNL movie since Tommy Boy. Faint praise? Like, totally.