2004-06-25 / Columnists

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

MovieScope By Robert Snyder

‘Mean Girls’ – Clue-More

For those who can’t recall "Clueless," actress-writer Tina Fey of "Saturday Night Live" fame has come up with "Mean Girls" to clue them in. It’s nice teen nasty fun, but reeks of rehash.

Starring the ever dependable Lindsay Lohan ("Freaky Friday") of Merrick, "Mean" gives us a social survival tour of  the menacing high school jungle. As narrated by new student Cady Heron (Lohan), the film is a primer on how to turn the tables on the prettiest bitchiest peer-pressure terrorists controlling the corridors and classrooms. Fey’s first-time film screenplay is based on Rosalind Wiseman’s nonfiction study, "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence." Still, it owes more to Amy Heckerling (writer-director of the aforementioned 1995 classic, "Clueless"), particularly in terms of its teen-heroine-voiceover presentation.

Cady has just escaped her cocoon of lifetime home-schooling, having lived in Africa with her zoologist parents (Anna Gasteyer and Neil Flynn). Fey doesn’t miss a chance to bash us with her high school-as-jungle metaphor as Cady suffers adolescent insecurities at the previously unknown world of public education. After eating lunch in the ladies’ room, our uptight heroine worms her way under the wings of student rebels, goth lesbian Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and gay cynic Damian (Daniel Franzeze). The strangely compatible couple are determined to undermine the social power structure defined by the Plastics, pretty-bitchy mean girls of the movie title: Regina George (Rachel McAdams), Gretchen Wieners (Lacy Chabert and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried).

The problem is that the mean-girl Plastics aren’t mean enough. When Cady becomes immersed in her undermining campaign, she is, in fact, meaner. She gains the confidence of the Plastics, than pits them against each other. However, her project backfires after Regina learns that Cady is moving in on her ex-boyfriend Aaron (Jonathan Bennett). The angry head Plastic takes their "Burn Book" of ugly gossip about everyone (teachers included) and turns it into Principal Duvall (Tim Meadows). The result is jungle chaos as the whole school explosions into a hate fest. Even popular teacher Ms. Norbury (Tey in her first film acting role) is not exempt from the vengeance brought on by the book: Her home is searched for drugs. And, cherubic Cady is too cowardly to admit that she’s behind the eruption of hostility. Eventually, everything is ironed out. The mean girls learn their lesson, bracing when they see a new group of Plastics coming to replace them.
"Mean Girls" is lightweight, mildly amusing and occasionally insightful. But compared with Ms. Heckerling’s movie, it’s clueless.

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