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Paramount Studios presents
Cady: Hi. I don't know if anyone told you about me. I'm a new student here. My name is Cady Heron.
DVD ReviewMean Girls might seem like a comic indictment of high school cliques and the rampant backstabbing within them, but it's really about the dangers of home schooling—at least that's how it struck me. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) has spent the bulk of her life in the African jungle, frolicking with animals with her zoologist parents (Ana Gasteyer and Neil Flynn). But when her family relocates to preppy Evanston, Illinois and Cady enrolls in public school, she finds lions and tigers are pussycats compared to the stuck-up rhymes-with-witches who rule North Shore High. Cady may be smart, but home schooling has made her a social retard—she doesn't understand teen lingo, knows nothing of pop culture, and is clueless about school hierarchy, etiquette, and peer interaction. As a result, she's easy prey for the salivating carnivores that can't wait to devour her as she tiptoes through the cafeteria, hoping to find the right niche.
Cady wisely avoids the delinquents and druggies, but can't resist the lure of The Plastics, a trio of hot but vapid babes who are simultaneously revered and reviled by the North Shore student body. Led by the ruthless Regina George (Rachel McAdams), The Plastics live by a set of rigid codes ("You can't wear a tank top two days in a row, and you can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week"), and seduce the naïve, starstruck Cady with their power and status. In the eyes of "teen royalty," however, Cady is nothing more than an empty canvas, and The Plastics can't wait to paint her in their artificial likeness. And, boy, do they churn out a masterpiece.
Amazingly, Cady's more down-to-earth, but equally weird friends—the rebellious Janis (Lizzy Caplan), who just happens to be Regina's former best friend yet now embraces the dark side, and Damian (Daniel Franzese), who, Janis quips, is "almost too gay to function"—encourage Cady to infiltrate the Plastic ranks so she can report on the group's evil deeds and spur its destruction. All goes according to plan initially, but when Regina learns Cady has a crush on her hunky ex, Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett), the two rivals go to war, and Cady's insatiable thirst for victory and revenge transforms her into the most plastic mean girl of all.
Conceived by Tina Fey, the smart and sassy head writer and Weekend Update anchor of Saturday Night Live, Mean Girls possesses more flair and bite than most high school comedies. Sure, Fey peppers her screenplay with some raunchy and brainless humor to appease the genre's target audience, but perceptive insights and identifiable dilemmas eclipse the idiocy. What makes Mean Girls different (and more substantive) than its cookie-cutter cousins is how it concentrates on relationships instead of situations. The film shows us that in high school, like many aspects of society, who you know is more important than what you know, and the alliances we form often dictate who and what we become. Cady learns the hard way that once she sets the wheels in motion by joining The Plastics, it's hard to apply the brakes.
Fey (who also appears in the film as a nurturing math teacher) and director Mark Waters (Freaky Friday) wisely present Mean Girls through Cady's virgin eyes, so we can experience the strange universe of high school and all the asinine regulations of "girl world" by her side. Consequently, we're more willing to forgive her mistakes and misjudgment, and understand the forces and pressures that provoke her bad choices. Who among us hasn't selfishly juggled and manipulated friends, submerged our intelligence (or beefed up our accomplishments) so we could snag a mate, or waged war against someone like Regina over a petty betrayal? Hey, it's high school, where, despite delusions to the contrary, immaturity reigns supreme, and everyone wades through the minefield of adolescence the best they can.
Lohan is hands down the finest actress and most magnetic personality of the teen beauties currently flooding Hollywood. Fresh-faced, natural, and able to play both feisty and vulnerable, she draws us into the film and keeps us rooting for her throughout her bumpy odyssey. Cady is not a character we always like, but Lohan's honest performance makes her motivations and actions relatable. As the notorious Plastics, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, and McAdams almost steal the show with hilariously vivid portrayals that push the envelope but maintain essential kernels of truth, while several current and past Saturday Night Live performers—Tim Meadows, Gasteyer, and Amy Poehler (in an inspired turn as Rachel's silicone-infused mom)—also add to the fun.
Fey's script, however, outshines them all. Funny, perceptive, wise, deliciously nasty, and ultimately uplifting (but never sappy and saccharine), it satirizes teen foibles as it addresses serious interpersonal and innately feminine issues in an intelligent, entertaining manner. That's a fancy way of saying the screenplay works on many levels while staying true to its comic roots. And how many teen comedies can make that claim—in any language?
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Clean and bright, the Mean Girls transfer benefits from rich hues and fresh-from-the-theater clarity. Nary a nick or scratch mars the anamorphic widescreen presentation, and no evidence of edge enhancement could be detected. Fleshtones remain solid and true, while shadow detail and contrast also earn high marks.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track isn't as active as I'd hoped, but it still provides clear, distortion-free sound. Minimal ambient effects prevent the rear speakers from getting much of a workout, and the subwoofer remains fairly quiet as well, but dialogue is always easy to understand, and the soundtrack tunes possess good fidelity and nicely fill the room.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Secret Central: Class of '05, School of Rock, The Perfect Score, The Prince and Me
3 TV Spots/Teasers
9 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Mark Waters, screenwriter and actress Tina Fey, and producer Lorne Michaels
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Three featurettes follow, although the first is long enough to be called a documentary. Only the Strong Survive runs 25 minutes (which is about 10 minutes too long) and offers a comprehensive overview of casting, characters, and the unique high school culture that fuels the film. Fey observes that girls could rule the world if they didn't inherently hate each other, and that The Plastics represent "celebrity culture shrunk down to high school size." She and Walters again admire Lohan's strength and likeability, and discuss the film's ultimate hopeful message. Interviews with all the principal actors, on-set footage, and a segment on the film's big-time Saturday Night Live connection also distinguish this informative behind-the-scenes look.
The Politics of Girl World is little more than an extended interview with Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, the book upon which Mean Girls is based. More like a mini-seminar than a featurette, this 10-minute monologue—which could easily have been trimmed by half—allows Wiseman to address such questions as "Why do girls leave themselves vulnerable to scary situations?", and hype her Empower Program, which teaches both girls and boys the root causes of violence. Wiseman hopes Mean Girls will encourage girls to talk about important personal issues and make their own decisions, but her repetitive palaver provokes yawns instead of epiphanies.
Plastic Fashion, another drawn-out featurette, focuses on costume designer Mary Jane Fort, who notes that color and style have meaning (oooooohhh!). Unfortunately, the meaning of the hideous blouse Fort wears during her interview remains dubious at best. Costume sketches and tests thankfully divert our attention from Fort's fashion disaster during at least a portion of this 10-minute puff piece.
Word Vomit, a five-and-a-half-minute blooper montage, offers a few genuine laughs, while So Fetch presents nine deleted scenes (a few of which are noteworthy) that can be viewed with or without commentary by Walters and Fey. The film's theatrical trailer, three clever interstitials, and previews for several other Paramount releases complete the extras package.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsBoth geeks and goddesses—past and present—will appreciate the humor and insights of Mean Girls, one of the better teen comedies of the past year. Engaging performances, slick direction, and an edgy script make this journey into "girl world" a blast. Paramount dresses up the disc with a fetching plate of extras and a perfectly plastic transfer. Recommended.
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