Mean Girls

(2004) *** Pg-13
96 min. Paramount. Director: Mark Waters. Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler.

The high-school hazing comedy Mean Girls--adapted by Tina Fey from Rosalind Wiseman's book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence--plays like Heathers with the edges filed down a bit. That may sound like damnation with faint praise, but Mean Girls is the kind of smooth, clever (and rare) entertainment that critics and audiences can all enjoy, guilt-free.

Like Heathers, Mean Girls penetrates the secret world of a nasty clique of girls, here called the Plastics. When home-school evacuee Cady Heron (Lohan), who spent much of her youth in Africa, takes in her first day of public school, it's a jungle out there. Befriended by two oft-ridiculed misfits--goth chick Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and gay youth Damian (Daniel Franzese)--Cady finds herself drawn to the Plastics, ostensibly at first to spy on the self-absorbed fashion plates and undermine them; soon, Cady finds herself becoming the role she plays, becoming--in fact--what she hates.

The audience, ruefully, takes the journey with her, watching the likeable innocent credibly turn hateful. Targeting "Queen Bee" Regina (Rachel McAdams), Cady delivers multiple low blows: offering her foot cream in place of facial cream, stealthily fattening Regina, and claiming Regina's on-again, off-again boyfriend as her own. The other Plastics--Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried)--follow Cady's flame and leave Regina for dead, socially speaking.

Lessons, naturally, are to be learned, but in admirable satiric fashion, as whipped up by Fey ("Weekend Update" co-host and co-head-writer for Saturday Night Live) and director Mark Waters (The House of Yes, Freaky Friday). Fey and producer Lorne Michaels (the guru of SNL) have help from their friends--Tim Meadows, Amy Poehler, and Ana Gasteyer--but the young ensemble pulls its weight, with Freaky Friday star Lohan solid in the lead. The supporting youngsters are diverse, without falling into the easy ethnic stereotypes (absent are the unrealistic cartoon accents teen-movie directors usually demand for maximum "comedy").

Fey's sexy-smart style, exploited effectively in her role as semi-cool teacher Ms. Norbury, detonates a cluster-bomb of snappily paced humorous approaches: cultural detail (the girls' parlance includes the term "half a virgin"), visual allusions (Lord of the Flies and Lean on Me both crop up), and highly tuned absurdity: seen in passing, Regina's little sister emulates Kelis's "Milkshake" video and "Girls Gone Wild" in the background, an ominous Plastic in training.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 4/14/2009

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

In its Blu-ray debut, Mean Girls looks better than it ever has on home video. Though it won't blow you way with maximal Blu-ray dazzle, the image is colorful, stable, and nicely detailed, and if the lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix likewise fails to wow, it nicely maximizes the source material.

The bonus features are extensive, beginning with a drily funny commentary by director Mark Waters, screenwriter/actress Tina Fey and producer Lorne Michaels.

The Featurettes (45:52 with "Play All" option, SD) "Only the Strong Survive," "The Politics of Girl World," and "Plastic Fashion"--taken together--include extensive behind-the-scenes footage, clips, and interviews with Fey, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, Lacey Chabert, Lindsay Lohan, Waters, Michaels, Jonathan Bennett, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese, Ana Gasteyer, Amy Poehler, Tim Meadows, Queen Bees & Wannabes author Rosalind Wiseman, and costume designer Mary Jane Fort.

"Word Vomit" (5:43, SD) is a blooper reel, while "So Fetch - Deleted Scenes" (7:01 with "Play All" option, SD) collects nine trims with optional commentary by Waters & Fey.

The disc also includes three "Interstitials" (1:39 with "Play All" option, SD), the TV Spots "Frenemies," "New Girl" and "PSA." Lastly, we get the film's "Theatrical Trailer" (2:35, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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