TBT: Mean Girls (2004)

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Well the final bell is about to ring on this back-to-school portion of TBT. . . and. . .I bet at least three of my readers would have never seen this one coming today. I will have to admit I didn’t either. I’m not even quite sure what prompted me to seek out this title, but boy am I glad that I did. This is one of those times I’m dually rewarded; not just for my bravery in going with something completely out of the blue at the last moment, but for chancing a film titled something like 

Today’s food for thought: Mean Girls.

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Missing this side of Lindsay Lohan since: April 30, 2004

[Netflix]

This Thursday is a great reminder of why it’s important to not judge a book (film) by its cover (weak title). I loved Mean Girls.

Sharp, intelligent writing and some surprisingly heartfelt moments made this teen drama a worthy entry into the crowded coming-of-age genre, and it lay on the laughs in fitful doses in spite of what once appeared as audience-pandering varnish. The glitz and the glam in this film applies sorta like it does in real life: turns out, beauty’s skin deep, and there’s much more to be found in this story about a white girl from Africa — Cady (it’s pronounced “Katie,” thank you very much), played by a Lindsay Lohan we hope is sober — who goes behind enemy lines of the ‘popular crowd,’ here referred to as ‘The Plastics,’ to upend the social order.

This, at the behest of the outcast but really cool kid Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) who wants nothing more than to topple the queen of the bitches, Regina George (Rachel McAdams, who clearly reveled in the opportunity to break from her sweet-girl persona).

While the attending tropes of the genre were almost as easy to pick out as Cady’s social clumsiness was in the beginning, Mean Girls is not as dumb as it looked, thanks to the wit of one Tina Fey, who not only services the film gracefully and amusingly as your vintage “I recognize how unhip I am as a math teacher” type role model – she also penned the script.

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That second part? Definitely good news for me, and for anyone under the false assumption this movie is just about applying make-up and making fun of the fuglies. Well, there is a little of that too. But oh my gosh, it’s like. . . so totally fetch.

Fey conjured up a school environment ripe with drama and interesting characters. There were the obvious targets: the aforementioned high-brows who wear high-heels and bad attitudes, the jocks, and the sexually-deprived math nerds. Moving on down the list of significance to the more frequently overlooked: the punk-rockers, the try-too-hard’s, the — and I’m paraphrasing — very pretty but unfriendly black girls, the awkwardly disfigured, the burn-outs, the downright not-good-lookers. Comprehensive. Thorough. Borderline insensitive. In essence, not at all what I had this movie pegged for.

But what perhaps solidified Mean Girls‘ status as a valid piece of commentary on the high school experience was the attention to detail. Conversations are often brutal, even heart-breaking, especially when it comes to evaluating waist sizes. Characters mattered (see: Daniel Franzese’s hilarious Damian). The set-up’s also engaging. Whereas certain developments play out predictably – the eventual downfall of Cady is none too subtle and neither are the fates of a few relationship triangles, romantic or otherwise – there are others that come out of left field, but in the best possible way. The idea Principal Duvall (Tim Meadows, master of the dead-pan delivery) had to gather all females in the gym for one hell of an interesting conflict resolution session stood out among them. There was also the reciprocating of the evils between newcomer Cady and the queen of the bitches.

Back-stabbing never seemed so much fun you guys! Despite colliding with several cliches, Mean Girls delivered big on laughs, entertainment and faithfulness to a certain culture of irrepressible silliness. When scenes played out in Cady’s head, we are treated to the scenario in slow-motion, backed-up with vicious animal noises, an effect that might seem goofy when read about, but whose effect gradually provides a cumulative effect that brought out the best in this mean-spirited mayhem.

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Score06Recommendation: A thoroughly entertaining comedy from the early 2000s that provided as much heart as it did laughs, while in the guise of what’s ostensibly a chick flick. Perhaps the surprise factor helped, but I laughed myself silly in key scenes here. The film had spirit, good-looking girls, and it also had something of an important message to impart its viewers with. It’s also ironic. If you can’t be accepted as Lindsay Lohan, just. . . try something else until that doesn’t work. Then go back to being Lindsay Lohan.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 96 mins.

Quoted: “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn’t make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George’s life definitely didn’t make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.”

TBTrivia: Tim Meadows had apparently broken his hand prior to shooting, and his character ends up wearing a cast for the duration. It is explained away as him having carpal tunnel syndrome.

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