You Don't Mess with the Lohan
On first glance "Mean Girls" looks like just another high school clique movie made for teen girls, you could lump it in with "Clueless", "Heathers" and even "Election" although that has much broader appeal. But what director Mark Waters gets so right with "Mean Girls", which makes it stand out, is the tone, because it is a fun movie but not a totally daft one and it still has that real life high school drama with out being too serious. Part of that credit must go to Tina Fey who adapted Rosalind Wiseman's book in to the screenplay. But it is down to the right tone which makes this work as get beyond that and what we have is not too dissimilar to other high school clique movies.
Having been raised in Africa by her zoologist parents and home schooled by her mother Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan - The Parent Trap) is a confident, intelligent 16 year old. But she is in for a shock when having returned to America she experiences her first day at high school and the almost animalistic type activities of the other students. To make matters worse she finds herself divided between friends and a clique called The Plastics and when she falls for Aaron (Jonathan Bennett) who is the ex boyfriend of chief Plastic Regina George (Rachel McAdams - The Time Traveller's Wife) she learns how nasty things can get.
Now the set up to "Mean Girls" maybe all about 16 year old Cady experiencing her first day of proper school having lived in South Africa and been homed school but in reality is no different to other high school clique movies. What that really means is that we watch Cady learn all about High School life, the various groups who hang together, the poking fun at people and the general bitchiness. Plus of course Cady not only fitting in with a group but also having a crush on a senior, which basically leads to what is the main part of the movie, Cady trying to destroy Regina George and her clique, The Plastics. And again to be honest this isn't anything new as destroying cliques has been done ever since someone came up with the idea of making a high school comedy.
But what makes all of this work is that Director Mark Waters gets the tone of it spot on, making it fun but never allowing it to become too stupid. Because it doesn't get too stupid the drama of high school life can be felt in a real way, so whilst Cady's imagining fighting students as wild animals is funny, what we see is not too different to real life, just blown up a little.
All of which is good but there is one problems and for reasons I just can't fathom the final 15 minutes is spoilt by trying to give all this high school fun some emotional depth as things spiral out of control and Cady has to take responsibility for various things. To put it bluntly this ending is so sappy that it feels completely out of place after such a spot on blend of humour and high school drama. I suppose the issue is not so much to do with Cady taking responsibility but the tone of it all is in such contrast to what went before it feels like it has been directed by someone else.
As for the acting well there isn't a bad performance in the entire movie be it Rachel McAdams as Regina, Lacey Chabert as sexy Gretchen or Lizzy Caplan as Janis. But of course at the centre of "Mean Girls" is Lindsay Lohan who not only looks both cute and innocent but also acts the part of Cady well. And the things which Lohan does so well is in a movie where many of the characters border on the caricature she seems almost normal and being normal makes her easy to like.
What this all boils down to is that "Mean Girls" is a surprisingly enjoyable movie especially when it is so similar to numerous other High School clique movies. But what makes it special is not so much the acting of Lindsay Lohan or anyone but that director Mark Waters gets the tone of it spot on so whilst it is a lot of fun, the underlying reality of high school life is still clear. It is only really spoilt by an incredibly sappy ending which simply feels wrong.