Disney has been re-visiting its vaults by churning out re-makes of its live-action and animated movies. Sometimes, the Mouse House even makes animated versions of its live-action movies and vice versa. The young actress Lindsay Lohan has been a participant in these re-makes, appearing in 1998's "The Parent Trap" as well as 2003's "Freaky Friday". Both movies were box-office winners, and although she hit a snag with "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" (also a Disney product), she scored another hit with Paramount's "Mean Girls".
Now, it's obvious that "Mean Girls" was meant to be Lohan's step into "mature" roles, what with its denouncing social cliques in high schools as well as girl-on-girl hating. However, "Mean Girls" is a message movie of the worst kind. It bares its teeth looking for important targets but delivers a crowd-pleasing resolution that solves nothing and introduces highly implausible elements that essentially negate the movie's statements.
Consider the following:
1) A girl is hit by a bus and winds up with a shattered back. However, in less than a year, she manages to walk without any aids and even plays lacrosse, a physically demanding sport.
2) A girl takes responsibility for creating a vicious gossip book about her high school. Her "punishment" is to be grounded by a father who doesn't understand what being grounded means, to represent her school at a math competition, and to win the Spring Fling Queen vote. I don't know about you, but being punished and being socially ostracized never looked this good.
3) Three average-looking actresses are supposed to play the glamazons of a high school. In my experience, it takes more than just revealing clothes and lots of make-up to be social queens--it takes real physical beauty to rule a campus. (Yeah, maybe the moviemakers were trying to make a point about how glamorous bitches aren't really that pretty but are only perceived to be pretty, but seriously, none of the actresses who are this movie's glamazons are conventionally attractive.)
In "Mean Girls", Lohan plays Cady, a girl who grew up in Africa because her parents did research there. However, Cady's mother is now an instructor at Northwestern University, so Cady is attending regular American school for the first time in her life. The Plastics--the three most beautiful girls at school--take her under their wings. Cady and her real friends want to reveal the Plastics' true natures, but Cady finds herself turning into her enemies the more that she spends time with them. By the movie's end, we get the usual smattering of "just desserts" and "I learned my lesson" voiceovers.
The movie's first half is its best as the screenplay delivers fresh ways of making the usual jokes about certain high school social groups. There's also one of the best visual gags that I've seen in a long time, that of Lindsay Lohan dressing up as a bloody bride from the grave with really bad teeth. However, the movie goes downhill when it introduces one of the Plastics' moms; she's so dumb that she's a miscalculation. Sure, the movie is not "realistic", but that Plastic's mom is a wild caricature that belongs in another movie.
The laughs also become labored, repetitive, and uninspired. For instance, the line "He's too gay to function" is repeated incessantly, regardless of whether characters mean well or ill. Also, Cady tells one girl to eat a lot of nutrition bars. The girl thinks that the bars will help her lose weight, but the bars actually make people gain weight. The payoff to the joke arrives so much later after the joke is first told that it's just not funny, period.
At some points, the movie forgets that it's a comedy and takes a veer into dark territory, complete with severe repercussions for some of the characters (including the aforementioned bus-hitting-a-girl incident). In fact, sometimes, I was reminded of "Gossip", a thriller about vicious college students telling lies about each other. The enterprise never recovers a balance in tone and purpose, and its all's-well-that-ends-well ending is trash that is too sugary, too Hollywood, and too commercial for the moviemakers to claim any ounce of integrity.
Girls shouldn't hate on girls--true. Tina Fey, of "Saturday Night Live" fame, shouldn't have hated on so many girls with her sell-out of a screenplay.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is very nice, as expected with a recent movie. The picture was always sharp and clear, which was a nice surprise since I expected some softness once in a while. (Soft lighting is used to make actresses "glow"--see "Casablanca".) Occasionally, there was some light dust on the film print, so the image is not entirely clean. However, the video compares favorably with most other DVD releases.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 English track is appropriately bouncy and festive, though the rear channels have little to do. The front soundstage is comfortably wide, but since this isn't an action extravaganza, you won't hear fancy directionality effects or authoritative bass.
You can also watch the movie with DD 2.0 surround English or DD 5.1 French tracks. Optional English and Spanish subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.
There's an audio commentary by director Mark Waters, screenwriter and actress Tina Fey, and producer Lorne Michaels. This is the kind of track that I dread--one with everyone talking about how great everybody else is. Three featurettes--"Only the Strong Survive", "The Politics of Girl World", and "Plastic Fashion"--look at various aspects of the production as well as some of the real-life inspiration for ideas used in the movie. "Word Vomit" is the DVD's blooper reel, and in "So Fetch", you get a few minutes' worth of deleted/extended scenes with optional audio commentary by Waters and Fey. Finally, there are three "interstitials" (TV commercials), the movie's theatrical trailer, and previews for other Paramount titles.
There is nothing inside the keepcase other than the DVD.
To be fair, "Mean Girls" has a lot of great laughs during its first half. However, the movie becomes increasingly unpleasant and vapid as it progresses, mirroring Cady's transformation into a Plastic. Also, the story's reach for a happy ending is unconvincing and unpalatable. Therefore, I recommend this movie only to fans of Lindsay Lohan.