(Originally published in Rocky Mountain Bullhorn)
Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) grew up as a home-schooled kid in Africa, but in Mark Waters’ Mean Girls (written by SNL head writer Tina Fey), the sheltered, fresh-faced teen discovers that there’s no jungle quite like a suburban American high school. Populated by an eclectic assortment of nerds, dweebs, jocks, and popular kids, the clique-intensive environment is like a foreign world to Cady, whose social and cultural obliviousness causes her to trust Regina George (Rachel McAdams) – leader of the shallow, self-absorbed popular girls known as the Plastics – with the hunky guy she covets. Big mistake. Betrayed, she plots revenge against the nasty Regina from the inside out, infiltrating the Plastics by becoming one of their own. With the help of a goth outcast (Lizzy Caplan) and her sarcastic gay sidekick (Daniel Franzese), Cady becomes a pin-up of lip-gloss, mini skirts, and stylish spitefulness in order to gain her moronic enemies’ trust and respect, but trouble arises when popularity starts going to Cady’s elegantly coiffed head. Fey’s script (adapted from Rosalind Wiseman’s novel “Queen Bees and Wannabes”) captures the behind-your-back bitchiness of teenage girls, and the film nails the “survival of the fittest” mentality that permeates high school social life. Even when it resorts to tired teen movie clichés (the segregated cafeteria, the popular girls’ slow-motion parting of the student body sea, the cuddly ending), Fey’s ability to color her catty melodrama with ribald non-sequiturs, as well as Lohan’s magnetic performance as the conniving Cady, help give this dissection of young female fiendishness an invigorating meanness.