"That's why her hair is so big...it's full of secrets."
An accurate and sharply funny portrayal of high school issues, "Mean Girls" never becomes too terribly dark or vicious, but it throws out some unexpected lines that had me laughing harder than any film in recent memory.
The film stars Lindsay Lohan as Cady, a teenager who has been homeschooled in Africa all her life, while her parents (Ana Gasteyer and "Scrubs" Neil Flynn) were researching in Africa. Although she's initially confused by the politics of high school, she gains two friends in by Janice (Lizzy Caplan), a goth chick, and a Damian (Daniel Franzese), a gay guy. When Cady is accepted by the plastics, a trio of popular girls lead by the glamourous Regina George (Rachel McAdams), her friends decide that it'll allow them to infiltrate the popular group, gain information and potentially take Regina and her friends, Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried), down from the inside.
Cady eventually falls for Aaron (Jonathan Bennett), Regina's ex-boyfriend. She broke up with him because he focused more on school - when Regina makes a play for Aaron in front of Cady, the tides turn and the three friends decide to dismantle all the elements that make Regina Regina, through tricks such as protein bars that make her figure not quite what it used to be.
Although it doesn't really reach any terribly new ground, underlying all of the sharp, witty jokes that pepper "Mean Girls" are some nice insights about the high school years, the pull of popularity and how it occasionally causes us to be what we're not, as well as how childhood friendships can fall apart during those high school years. The film takes place in North Shore High School, which is apparently based upon the very real Evanston Township High School in Evanston, IL. However, it often seems like a more accurate portrayal of Evanston's nearby rival, New Trier.
The performances are very good; McAdams plays a perfectly bitchy school queen (although an R-rating would have allowed her to go all the way with the character), Lohan delivers a good-natured performance that's less bland than some of her prior efforts and Caplan is a sharp performer who hits her lines with perfect timing. "Saturday Night Live"'s Tim Meadows and "Mean Girls" writer Tina Fey also turn in excellent supporting efforts as the school principal and the math teacher.
"Girls" falters a bit when it drops its claws (the picture is PG-13, and one can tell that it has been toned down to avoid an R), but the film largely proceeds full steam - it's a smart, funny teen comedy that goes over familiar ground in a fresh and smart manner.
VIDEO: "Mean Girls" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount. The picture quality is fine, but there's a few minor concerns. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory; the picture remains crisp and bright, but definition isn't quite optimal - some shots look a tad soft, while fine details are not clearly visible.
The presentation doesn't run into many issues - a few minor traces of pixelation and edge enhancement are present, while the print looks in fine shape. Colors looked perfectly fine, with pleasing warmth and saturation.
SOUND: "Mean Girls" is presented by Paramount in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack does manage a few minor instances of placing sound effects in the surrounds, but the majority of the film is front-focused. Audio quality is perfectly fine, with clear dialogue and music. Overall, however, this is simply a "comedy" mix.
EXTRAS: The main supplement is a commentary from writer/actor Tina Fey, director Mark Waters and producer Lorne Michaels. The commentary is something of a disappointment, as the three should have come together to provide more of an entertaining track. Fey provides some occasional funny, sharp remarks, but is largely subdued. Waters offers some minor tidbits and information on the production, but spends considerable time praising those he worked with. Finally, Michaels just occasionally throws in some decent tidbits in reponse to the current topic. I was a little let down when one of them states early on, "I just realized we have to talk through the whole movie." Sure enough, for a commentary with three participants there are a few more gaps of silence and slow moments than I'd expect. The track isn't terrible, but simply less than expected.
Nine deleted scenes are included on the DVD, with optional commentary from director Mark Waters and writer/actor Tina Fey. These fairly short extended/deleted sequences occasionally get some big laughs. While they were likely cut for pacing and there's a few moments that were rightfully cut, these are worth a view.
Three featurettes - "The Politics of Girl World", "Plastic Fashion" and "Only the Strong Survive", run for a total of just under 46 minutes. "Only the Strong" is a general "making of", which offers character profiles, story overview, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. "Politics of Girl World" offers an interview with author Rosalind Wiseman, who talks about how teen girls have to face images about what they should look like and, as a result, suffer insecurities and other issues. Finally, "Plastic Fashion" looks at the costume designs in the movie.
Finally, we get "Word Vomit", which offers about 5-1/2 minutes of bloopers, as well as the film's theatrical trailer, TV spots and previews for other Paramount titles.
Final Thoughts: "Mean Girls" is often clever and hilarious, with several great one-liners and performances. The film seems tamed down a tad for the PG-13 rating, but it's still sharp and effective more often than not. Paramount's DVD offers fine audio/video quality and a decent helping of supplements. Recommended.
The Film ***