This film is about Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan), who spent her entire life home-schooled in Africa. Her return to the States subjects her to the overwhelming social hierarchy of high school. The elite “Plastics” adopt Cady into their clique, a gesture that Cady then uses to cement her own popularity while sabotaging the triumvirate’s leader, Regina George (Rachel McAdams), and the established aristocracy.Tina Fey, currently head writer for “Saturday Night Live,” wrote the film, and one might expect a fair mixture of humor and snide social commentary from one of today’s most brilliant comedic minds. In this regard, Fey hardly disappoints. Her commentary on the social hell that is high school is smart and witty, looking beyond the unrealistic, stereotypical versions of high school portrayed in most films.
Fey’s experience writing short vignettes at SNL makes her adept at humor but hopelessly out of depth when trying to establish any long-term, meaningful characterization. Had the focus of the film been primarily on the social construct of high school, this would be an easily overlooked flaw. The emphasis, however, rests with the dichotomy between Cady and Regina, and their subsequent interactions with the two additional popular girls and Cady’s unpopular friends. The four members who comprise the supporting cast should receive far more significant characterization than the impossible stereotypes into which they are thoughtlessly lumped.
Unfortunately, the film loses its momentum about halfway through. The jokes that had begun fresh and witty regress into stale, stereotypical comedy. A joke referring to extrasensory perception as “ESPN” was funny for about a week five years ago, and has no business appearing in a film with such initial promise.
The final 30 minutes abandon most of the humor that upheld the first half and the film spontaneously becomes a cautionary tale, with a school-wide intervention worthy of an episode of “Dr. Phil.”
“Mean Girls” is perhaps one of the only high school parodies to offer an innovative and intelligent perspective on that period in our lives which many of us are happy to have left behind. High school satire, however, is a stale genre of film, a fact that even the quickest writer cannot escape. “Mean Girls” achieves more than it should have been capable of in this genre, but not as much as I would have hoped. B