[box cover]

Mean Girls

The fact is, Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) doesn't belong in a midwest American high school. But at 16, she has no choice — her parents have relocated to Illinois after many years of anthropological work in Africa, and home-schooled Cady now finds herself enrolled as a junior at North Shore High, marking her first encounter with American public education. Unable to penetrate the many cliques that fill out the school's classrooms and cafeteria, she soon finds two new friends, artist Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and "so gay he can't function" Damian (Daniel Franzese). It's this odd duo who then explain the rules of teen civilization to Cady, breaking down the groups one by one — the band geeks, the art weirdos, the nerd Asians, the cool Asians, the untouchable black hotties, the jocks, and the burnouts. But she's particularly warned to avoid one social collective above all others, "The Plastics," a trio of snobby rich girls who are hated and feared by all others. Cady's only too willing to live within the system and try to get along, but her innocence comes at a price when the queen bee of The Plastics, Regina (Rachel McAdams) invites her to sit at her table in the cafeteria with her hangers-on, deeply insecure Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and bubblehead Karen (Amanda Seyfried). Janis — who harbors an old grudge against Regina — urges Cady to continue to hang out with The Plastics in the hopes she'll dig up some embarrassing gossip, and before long the trio becomes a foursome. But when Cady falls for Regina's old boyfriend Aaron (Jonathan Bennett), Regina responds with a few dirty tricks, leaving the once-sweet Cady hell-bent on revenge. With the help of Janis and Damian, a plan is put into motion. But what Cady doesn't realize is that he has to become as much of a bitch as Regina if she plans to beat the teen-queen at her own game.

Based on the non-fiction book Queen Bees & Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman, Mean Girls (2004) marks the screenwriting debut of Tina Fey, a writer and comedian who worked her way up from Chicago's Second City to become head writer and cast member at "Saturday Night Live." Fascinated by Wiseman's book, which contained virtually nothing in the way of plot, Fey pitched a big-screen adaptation to SNL producer Lorne Michaels, who took the project to Paramount. Thus, there's little surprise that SNL players pad out the film's supporting cast (including Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, and Ana Gasteyer), while Fey plays recently divorced math teacher Ms. Norbury. But the film is about mean girls after all, and the teen leads are a perfect match for Fey's consistently witty script. Rachel McAdams channels the sort of arch-bitch of high school that everyone is bound to hate with such passive-aggressive perfection that she's mildly terrifying, while Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried are so enthusiastic about being Plastics that they speak almost as if they've joined a religious cult — which also would be terrifying, were it not for the fact that Fey's light humor is grounded in an awful lot of teen reality. And Lindsay Lohan is a pleasant choice for the lead role of Cady — while it's clear she won't be getting any Oscar attention, Lohan brings both authenticity and range to her work, able to come across as the artless new girl who subtly transforms into the worst bitch in school over the course of several months. Of course, the movie will end with a bit of a lesson for everyone, and Cady will get the cute guy by the time the credits roll. But in the teen-comedy genre, Mean Girls does a good job of belittling a lot of adolescent role-playing in a refreshingly smart way.

*          *          *

Paramount's DVD release features a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Extras include a commentary with writer/star Fey, director Mark Waters, and producer Lorne Michaels, the featurettes "Only the Strong Survive," (24 min.), "The Politics of Girl World" with author Rosalind Wiseman (10 min.), and "Plastic Fashion" with costume designer Mary Jane Fort (10 min.), an outtakes reel (5 min.), nine deleted scenes with commentary, the theatrical trailer and three teasers, and additional Paramount previews. Keep-case.
—JJB



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