ARTS

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April 30, 2004

Mean Girls scores with Fey's words, Lohan's body

I was warned to have low expectations for Mean Girls, and I complied. I expected a harmless but nonetheless enjoyable teen comedy, and that's what I got. Though not as dark as Heathers, as fantastical as Clueless, or as endearing as Sixteen Candles, Mean Girls is still funny—or at least funny enough. It's not a timeless sleepover classic (like the movies it palely imitates), but it holds its own in the oversaturated teen comedy genre.

Much media hoo-hah has been paid to the fact that Mean Girls is the first screenwriting attempt for Tina Fey, the first woman to hold the head-writer post at Saturday Night Live. She does an acceptable job adapting the book Queen Bees and Wannabes—a more scientific look at the traumatic nature of being a teenage girl—but fails to make the plot anything more than an adequate vehicle for Lindsay Lohan's tremendous breasts. Fey is famous for her overtly raunchy comedy, like the "Old French Whore" skit on SNL or the frequent use of the word "cooter" on "Weekend Update," but Mean Girls is just a bit too tame. Fey admitted that the script had been "watered down" in a New York Times article last weekend, and it shows. Many of the jokes still work, but it's hard not to long for an R-rated version—I mean for the language and jokes, not the underage breasts, perv.

Lohan is totally adorable and charming as the formerly home-schooled Cady ("but pronounced like ‘Katie,'" as the movie reminds us a bajillion times. If there's some symbolism here or something, I'm missing it). Cady and the fam, including madre Ana Gasteyer, move to Evanston, after living in Africa for 16 years—which of course leads to a handful of jokes about Cady being white. It's not clear why the movie decides to take on some racial humor—specifically in jokes about the Asian cliques—but for the most part, it does so without being particularly offensive. Which more or less sums up all the humor to be had in Mean Girls.

Cady immediately falls in with the artsy and cool Janis and her predictably gay sidekick Damian, but once the Plastics—the bitchy hotties that rule the school—invite her to sit at their oh-so-exclusive lunch table, Cady gets totally sucked into their world. Though Cady, Janis, and Damian launch some kind of plan to sabotage Regina George, the queen bee of the Plastics, Cady pretty much turns herself retarded in the process. Oh, the yuks of pretending you're bad at calculus.

The middle of the movie drags its feet while trying to convince you that Cady and Janis are really good friends, but the bond never really comes to life. The Plastics are beyond generic, which I suppose is the point, but Lacey Chabert was insanely irritating as the world's most grating character of all time—Claudia on Party of Five—and she is just as annoying playing much-abused Plastic Gretchen. If I never see Lacey in another movie ever again, it will be too soon. Tim Meadows is the standout of the supporting cast as the goofy principal with a big crush on calc teacher Fey. This is probably because he played that character countless times on SNL.

The last bit of the movie rights itself, but the tone becomes a bit moralizing and corny. The sight gag of a girl in a wheelchair doing a trust fall off a table is priceless, though, even as the rest of the film wraps itself up a bit too neatly. To sum up: Tina Fey, awesome but not perfect; Lindsay Lohan, gigantic breasts; high school girls, crazy bitches; being good at calculus, dead fucking sexy.