From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Teen Angst:

I always thought it was a sign that I had gotten older or moved into demographic adulthood when I stopped relating to or caring about teen movies. The teen movies of my youth still carry a lot of emotional weight with me. I still quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off on many an occasion. I hope to take a tour of some of the same spots they visit in that movie on their day through Chicago when I journey there to visit next month. Likewise, Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club hold special places in my moviegoing heart, though I can't quite view the former the same way after seeing it get the Mr. Sinus treatment at Alamo earlier this year.

So with that in mind, I didn't think I would get anything out of Mean Girls, a teen comedy released earlier this year. Not only was a shocked to find I enjoyed the film a lot, but was also surprised at some of the sharp observational humor that the film had to offer.

Lindsay Lohan
is Cady Heron, a sixteen year old girl about to embark on her first day in high school. Up to this point in her life Cady had been home schooled while in Africa with her parents, both zoological academics. However, Cady's mother received an offer for tenure with an U.S. university and as a result, Cady finds herself thrown into the urban jungle that is public high school. Her indoctrination into the public school lifestyle includes making friends with goth girl Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and gay teen Damien (Daniel Franzese). It's through these two that Cady ultimately gets introduced to "The Plastics".

The Plastics is the ultimate chic girl clique that everyone in the school wants to be a part of. Assistant babe Gretchen (Lacy Chabert) and ditz Karen (Amanda Seyfried) caddy and cater to the queen bee of the high school social world: Regina George (Rachel McAdams). The Plastics do everything they can to maintain their place atop the food chain, exercising a fair measure of vindictiveness that is both alien to Cady and at the same time vaguely familiar. When Janis and Damien convince Cady to try and infiltrate the Plastics to extract some sort of revenge for Regina's past transgressions against the high school world, Cady finds herself getting a very different kind of education than she expected, and the heart of the movie comes out in the open.

This is not a movie that is going to have you writing home over any acting performances, but it does have a lot of entertainment value to offer. The movie revolves around the four female leads, and while none of them will be mistaken for the second coming of Katherine Hepburn they each hold their own adequately in the roles that are drawn for them. Lohan and McAdams in particular do a very good job of providing a contrast between Regina's queen bee/supreme bitch of the world and Cady's innocent learning the ropes.

The true strength of the movie lies in the script penned by Saturday Night Live regular Tina Fey, who also has a small role as Cady's math teacher Ms. Norbury. The script does an exceptional job of capturing the trials and tribulations of life as a teenager today. There are a couple of sequences that contrast the high school lifestyle with the animal hierarchy in the wild, and under any other circumstances in any other movie it would have played out in a ridiculously silly fashion. Yet in Fey's script the whole thing seems not only natural, but fun and more than a little bit insightful.

The ending of the movie is very formulaic and standard as far as teen movies go. But the whole enterprise is insightful, more than a little fun, and very entertaining for teens and adults both. I think that even if viewing the film with the same degree of skepticism I had going in, anyone watching this is going to find something to take away that they enjoy and will find themselves talking about long after the film is done.