Lindsay Lohan is one of the most overhyped celebrities in recent years, more famous for her late-night partying and her dysfunctional father than for her acting talents. Hardly a day goes by without her picture being printed in the gossip sections of the New York tabloids. So I went into MEAN GIRLS already disliking her. But I'll be damned if she didn't win me over, onscreen if not off, in this often amusing teen comedy as a new high school student who joins the school's bitchiest clique and then works from the inside to break it up.
In the light of several teen comedies that have recently been released, MEAN GIRLS comes off even better than it did in 2004. It is a more intelligent modern-day teen comedy than most, based on high school politics rather than sex and bodily functions. Tina Fey's script contains plenty of sharp observations (the health teacher who preaches abstinence and then hands out rubbers) and quick, memorable exchanges ("Is butter a carb?"/ "Yes!") and the cast brings so many fresh, funny performances to the film, they make your average mindless teen sex comedy seem like, well, your average mindless teen sex comedy.
I'll swallow my pride and say that Lindsay Lohan in MEAN GIRLS is as good as Molly Ringwald was in SIXTEEN CANDLES. Her well-rounded performance as a nice girl formerly home-schooled in Africa and now attending regular school for the first time allows the other ladies in the cast to throw themselves into their stereotypes with gusto. Rachel McAdams, one of my new favorites of young Hollywood (why isn't she a bigger star?), is the perfect embodiment of all things evil in high school - tall, blonde, gorgeous Regina, the most popular girl in school who is conversely the meanest. McAdams manages to bring vulnerability and heart to what could have been a one-dimensional role. Lacey Chabert, whose lackluster post-Party of Five career has been something of a cause for this site, displays a wonderful flair for comedy as McAdams's clingy, gossipy drone Gretchen, and gets some of the film's funniest lines and moments. Amanda Seyfried is also fun as a second drone Karen, a vastly dumb blonde who is vaguely aware of her intellectual shortcomings. And Lizzie Caplan is funny and touching as Janis, Regina's former best friend who was driven into being an outsider by Regina's meanness and now wants revenge.
The adult cast is equally good, especially Saturday Night Live members Tina Fey as a math teacher, and Tim Meadows, who quietly goes about getting chuckles throughout as the school's exasperated principal.
Despite MEAN GIRLS' superficial resemblance to HEATHERS, it's much closer to John Hughes's teen comedies in spirit, and is proof that teen comedies do not have to be vulgar and tasteless to be effective. And yes, I updated this review's picture so that it only shows Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert and Amanda Seyfried but not Lindsay Lohan. I can be mean too, you know. - JB
ANOTHER QUOTE AND MAKE IT A
"So if you're from Africa, why are you white?
"Oh my God, Karen, you can't just ask somebody why they're white!"
"And they have this book, this 'Burn Book', where they write mean things about all the girls in our grade."
"What does it say about me?"
"You're not in it."