Mean Girls (2004)

Rated PG-13 Our content rating: V-2; L-3; S/N-5.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.
Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” Proverbs 24:28-29

Mean Girls

Here is a teen-centered film that even adults can enjoy, one that rises far above the usual cliché-ridden high school films unleashed on us during the late spring and early summer. Lindsay Lohan is excellent as Cady, the new student in the junior class at Evanston Township High School. She has been home schooled up until now because her parents were anthropologists in Africa. (Of course, there are a couple of humorous incidents when it is announced to her homeroom that the new student is from Africa.) Her first day is a living hell for her—after she is warned away rudely whenever she tries to find a seat in the cafeteria, she winds up eating her lunch in a stall in the Girl’s Room Then she meets Janis (Lizzy Caplan), a Goth-like rebel and her best friend Damian (Daniel Franzese), an openly gay student (gays seem now in such movies to have moved beyond being the butte of humor to embody sensitivity and wry counter-culture observations). Janis gives Cady a crash course in student anthropology, pointing out the various cliques that constitute student society—jocks, nerds, and so on. Inhabiting the top stratum are the Plastics, two drop-dead-gorgeous girls led around by the nose by the immaculately turned-out Regina George (Rachel McAdams), a real manipulator who thinks the sun encircles her. (The three are called the Plastics because they are always so perfectly groomed and dressed that they look like plastic Barbie dolls.) When they express an interest in the girl whom they’ve not see before, Cady is flattered, but chooses to go and sit again with Janis and Damian, whereupon Janis talks her into accepting the Plastics’ invitation to join them for future lunches. That way Cady can learn their secrets and share them with Janis, who badly wants to destroy Regina’s reputation.

Cady does join the in group, and soon becomes enmeshed in their lives. She discovers that Regina comes by her obsession with looks and clothing through her Mom, whose chief boast is her pair of enhanced breasts. Mom strives to be “so cool” that she declares that in her house “there are no rules”—even when she barges into Regina’s room to find her in bed with a boy, she merely remarks that her girl is learning important things and that she hopes the boy has a condom.

Tina Fey, who adapted the script from the nonfiction book by Rosalind Wiseman Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, plays Ms. Norbury, Cady’s homeroom and math teacher. Tim Meadows plays the school principal, Mr. Duvall—both adults are far from the usual movie school staff (stupid and hypocritical). Ms. Norbury is a smart teacher, concerned that Cady has suddenly fallen from an A+ level of math to failing, finally learning from Cady that she started faking dumbness when she became interested in Aaron (Jonathan Bennett), the math-clueless boy sitting in front of her.

Directed by Mark S. Waters (remember his Freaky Friday?), the film could be paired with Saved, a youth group finding all sorts of issues raised by either film. Ms. Norbury’s speech at the end of the film and the students’ suddenly getting her point might be a bit over the top, but it provides a worthy resolution to what almost has become a civil war dividing student from student. It is so refreshing to view a high school film that does not insult the intelligence either of youth or adult viewers, one that thinks humor is more than an anal-related matter. Let’s hope Tina Fey will return to the big screen with still more such thought-provoking films.

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