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Laramie Movie Scope: Mean Girls

One of the few, the proud: a smart teen comedy

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 25, 2004 -- Most teen comedies are dumb, tasteless trash, so when you find a well-written, well-acted, well-directed one, it is a thing to treasure. “Mean Girls” is one of those rare treasures.

Not surprisingly, the film comes with a lofty pedigree. Both the star and director made a previous good teen comedy, “Freaky Friday.” Director Mark S. Waters, and teen star Lindsay Lohan, who plays Cady Heron, the new girl in school, excel once again in “Mean Girls.” Lohan plays a girl who has just moved to town from Africa and has been home-schooled her whole life. She is smart, well-educated and attractive. She is therefore a target for abuse by the public-educated kids in high school. She quickly finds refuge in the company of the punkish Janis Ian (named after the singer, no doubt), played by Lizzy Caplan of “Orange County” and her friend Damian (Daniel Franzese of “Party Monster”). Janis jokes that Damian is “too gay to function.” The three outcasts pass their time making clever jokes about the in crowd.

At the center of the in crowd is Regina George (Rachel McAdams of “The Notebook”), the most glamorous girl in school. She is surrounded by her mindless followers, Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert of “Daddy Day Care”) and Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried of the “All My Children” TV show). Regina has talent in the areas of vicious scheming and emotional sabotage. Together, the three are known as the plastics. They rule the school. When Regina invites Cady to become a member of the plastics, Janis urges her to accept, so she can get the inside scoop on the group. This plan backfires, of course, and leads to a school-wide battle.

In addition to good acting and a solid script, there are some very funny fantasy scenes in the film as Cady imagines how some of the disputes among the girls at the school would be settled in Africa by wild animals. There is also a funny scene where the kids at the mall are portrayed as animals around an African watering hole. The screenplay, by Tina Fey, a writer for the “Saturday Night Live” TV series, is based on a non-fiction book by Rosalind Wiseman, “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” which explores teen social issues. Fey also plays the role of a teacher in the movie, Ms. Norbury, who also gets caught up in the warfare among the girls at the school. While some of the adults in the film are portrayed as clueless, some are both smart and funny. Tim Meadows of “The Ladies Man” is one of those. He plays the school principle, Mr. Duval. Meadows, of course is another Saturday night live alumnus. The movie is produced by Lorne Michaels of “Saturday Night Live.”

The pacing of the film is slow at first, but it picks up momentum and finishes fast. It also isn't as funny at first, because it relies too much on stereotypes, and hasn't established its characters yet. The basic plot is nothing new. It has been done many times, but this film covers the same ground a lot better than most stories of this kind. The performances in the film by the young actors is very good. Lohan and Rachel McAdams are exceptional as the two girls who carry much of the story load. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2004 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)