The words "teen comedy," used in that order to describe a film, can usually cause vomiting in anyone over the age of 18. It is that phrase, those two words, that has preceded suck dreck as Loser, American Pie 2 and Saving Silverman.
(NOTE: I hate Jason Biggs.)
So, it is with great trepidation that I use the phrase "teen comedy" to describe, in even the most superficial manner, the Tina Fey-penned film Mean Girls. Unlike so many other films in the genre, Mean Girls is more than scatological humor strung together by a weak story – it is an interesting, funny and surprisingly sweet look at modern high school life.
Lindsay Lohan stars as Cady, a recent transplant from Africa left to find her own way at a public high school for the first time in her life. She meets all the stereotypical cast of characters, but finds herself torn between the art freaks and "the plastics," a group of girls that use charm and looks to rule the school.
In the first ten minutes of the film, there are gags in which Cady is almost run over by a bus and sits behind the student in class that always farts. But from there, Fey keeps the humor out of the obvious and into the relationships between young women. Based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman, Fey uses the book's psychology and her own sense of storytelling which, together, create a "teen comedy" with depth.
Part of the reason Fey's story works so well is that Lohan, beyond her physical attributes, is incredibly likeable. The viewer really roots for her, even when her actions are meaner than the titular women. She is the perfect actress for this role, an inspired casting choice and works in perfect contrast with the "plastics" (Amanda Seyfried, Rachel McAdams and Lacey Chabert).
The adults in the film – most of whom come straight from Saturday Night Live - also turn in fine performances. Fey is funny as Cady's teacher, while Ana Gasteyer and Amy Poehler are good additions as parents. Most amazing is the work turned in by Tim Meadows, who has been about as funny as a terminal disease in most of his film work. But as the principal in Mean Girls he is under control, a character instead of a caricature and very, very funny.
Mean Girls is presented in anamorphic widescreen and is a very good looking transfer. Colors are very crisp and the source print looks excellent. The lone problem comes from focus – darker scenes are sometimes soft, but rarely distracting.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack separates the dialogue from the backing music and sound effects very well. There's almost no need for a 5.1 mix, though, with nearly the entire film coming through the front speakers.
Three featurettes are the best of the beefed-up "Collector's Edition." "Only the Strong Survive" is the main piece, with "The Politics of Girl World" and "Plastic Fashion" breaking out individual topics.
The commentary track with producer Lorne Michaels, director Mark Waters and writer/actress Tina Fey is disappointing; so many of the best comments are in the documentaries, and the rest of the time is silence or comments about how much they each liked the actors and actresses. The best moments involve comments about the MPAA required cuts.
There is also a five-and-a-half minute blooper reel, three commercials dressed up as "interstitials" on the back cover, and deleted scenes with commentary from Waters and Fey.
Ignore the labels and the poor advertising campaign – Mean Girls is pitch perfect and very, very funny. Highly recommended.