MoviesMean Girls

Mean Girls generated a lot of buzz when it first came out, but as you might have guessed, I'm not a Mean Girl, so I gave it a pass. Eventually, my wife put it to the top of our Netflix queue and I got my chance to watch a movie without a theater full of teenagers. I was curious if Tina Fey has the writing chops to pull off 30 Rock.

The answer is a resounding yes.

There's a sad irony in the portrayal of the protagonist, Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan. Lohan's Hollywood personality is far more like the Mean Queen Bee antagonist (Regina George, played by Rachel McAdams) these days. Fortunately, this movie was filmed when Lohan was on the verge of stardom and transitioning from cute Mousketeer to party bombshell. In that regard, Mean Girls is both a coming of age film and a scorching attack on the backstabbing culture of teenage girls.

To whit, Cady has returned to the U.S. after being home schooled in Africa. She skipped the entire maturation process that girls go through. This is a blessing in that Cady is completely unaware of her growing feminine presence and a curse, because she has no idea how to survive the social rigors of high school. Cady also happens to be SMOKING HOT, an attribute everyone was presumably too polite to point out while she was being home schooled.

Cady ends up making friends with two kids that gently transition her into high school life: artsy Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and "almost too gay to function" Damian (Daniel Franzese). The two provide a comedic duet of biting commentary on high school politics and perpetrate all manner of pranks to get back at their archenemies, the Plastics. The Plastics are an unholy triumvirate consisting of aforementioned Regina, fawning Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), and dumb as rocks Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried). Janis and Damian hatch the perfect plan: use Cady to infiltrate the Plastics and destroy them from within.

The problem is that's exactly what happens to Cady. When she finally manages to oust Regina, Cady discovers she's become the person she supposedly hates. Drama, tears, and a struggle over a cute boy (Aaron Samuels, played by Jonathan Bennett) ensue.

What separates this movie from all the other teen movies out there is the persistent humor of Tina Fey's script. This is a movie taking a serious look at what makes girls hate each other, and when the teachers get involved they actually try to do something about it using psychological techniques. In other words, the adults aren't all complete morons. Even the "bad guys" are more than one-dimensional ciphers.

The movie is peppered with lessons about trust between friends, learning to like yourself, and accepting people for who they are. All of this is done with humor and the surprising aplomb of a very mature cast that never dumbs down the script…except for Karen, a character almost "too dumb to function."

The extras on the DVD really make Mean Girls shine, especially an interview with the original author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, Rosalind Wiseman. The extras elevate Mean Girls from teen comedy to smart social commentary. It's worth viewing for anyone who has a teen girl…or is one.