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Mean Girls

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Mean Girls

Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Tina Fey
Director: Mark Waters
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: April 2004
Genres: Comedy, Romance


*Also starring: Lizzy Caplan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Daniel Franzese, Tim Meadows, Jonathan Bennett, Wai Choy, Amy Poehler, Rajiv Surendra, Jonathan Malen, Olympia Lukis



Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

Since I was unfortunate enough to go to an all-male prep

school, I'm unfamiliar with life among the young women in coed

institutions, which is why Mark Waters's "Mean Girls" provided

not only an education but a richly rewarded 96 minutes of sheer

entertainment. While "Mean Girls" does not pretend to be a

satire of American politics like Anthony Payne's "Election" (a

Nebraska schoolteacher's attempt to put a roadblock in the path

of an overachiever running for class president), the story is

probably true-to-life even if the incidents lead one to believe that

scripter Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live") exaggerates. Yet Fey's

script is based on a nonfiction book by Rosalind Wiseman,

"Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive

Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of

Adolescence."

Though the film is taut, the malicious gossip, the cliques that

become obvious to any observer of a school lunchroom (the

cool Asians, the nerdy Asians, the jocks, the gays, the outcasts)

are our tribal society's reflection writ small. Like the nations and

ethnic groups of the world, the groups within the group at

Evanston Township High School (actually filmed in Toronto) are

a mirror of the rest of us.

The story rests on a coming-of-age foundation wherein Cady

(Lindsay Lohan) home-schooled by her missionary parents in

Africa, is introduced to an institutionalized setting in the U.S. for

the first time in her life at the age of sixteen. Wholly unfamiliar

with the culture of a middle-class suburban school, she is

kidded at first, is befriended by a Lebanese-American lesbian,

Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and the gay guy she hangs with, Damian

(Daniel Franzese), who show her around and by doing so, give

us in the audience some insight into high-school politics. While

Janis and Damian warn her about the Plastic, the coolest girls in

the place and so named because they resemble Barbie dolls,

she is brought into their circle, turns from naif to fellow gossip,

and must find her way back again to some balance.

While the mean girls are not really that mean a criticism

leveled at the picture by some critics they are certainly

entertaining. Nor does director Waters fall into the vulgar

Farrelly Brothers' shtick but presents the youngsters as inwardly

fragile. Long-term beauty queen appropriately named Regina

(Rachel McAdams) is the apple that does not fall far from her

mother's tree. In her case, the mom (Amy Poehler, who

resembles Beverly D'Angelo) defines herself straightaway as

one of the cool set and, when a small coed party is held and she

discovers a guy and gal in the bedroom, she offers not fruit but

condoms.

"Mean Girls" makes excellent use of side roles such as that of

math teacher Norbury (played by scripter Tina Fey), who tells

the girls that she's divorced and that she's a "pusher" (which the

Plastics blow up, spreading the word that she's into drugs); and

principal Mr. Duvall (Saturday Night Live's Tim Meadows), who

in one case emerges from his office with a baseball bat and has

to turn on the emergency water sprinklers to break up a school-

wide cat fight.

The one scene that does not ring true involves a meeting of

the school in the gym in which Ms. Norbury leads the entire

group into a kind of meditation session, asking for hands up

from all those who have said malicious things behind their

friends' backs (unanimous). Come to think of it, maybe the

current presidential campaign in the U.S. is a mirror of the

sometimes riotous events that take place at Evanstown HS.

Ms. Lohan is arguably the most adorable and the most talented

of teens in the American movies. Director Waters, fresh from

his major his with "Freaky Friday" (also starring Ms. Lohan), has

racked up another winner, one that neither condescends nor

vulgarizes a typical month or so in what may or may not be a

typical American high school.

Copyright 2004 Harvey Karten

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