2004 was a long time ago for Lindsay Lohan. Back then, she was just that cute, impossibly sweet little up-and-comer from 'Parent Trap' and 'Freaky Friday,' the one with a bright future ahead of her and, it seemed, enough level-headed smarts to survive the dreaded "child star" tag and etch out a long and prosperous career in Hollywood. Of course, that was before the car accidents, the rehab stints, 'I Know Who Killed Me' and her sapphic transformation into "LezLo" (thanks, Perez Hilton). But whatever you think of Ms. Lohan these days, and no matter where her career path takes her, we can always look back at 'Mean Girls' to remember her at the pinnacle of her young Hollywood success -- it's a sharp performance in a very witty, incredibly clever teen film.
Based on the novel "Queen Bees and Wannabes" by Rosalind Wiseman, Lohan stars as Cady, whose lived an adventurous life as a teen, having been raised and home-schooled by her parents (Ana Gasteyer and Neil Flynn) in Africa. Now she's been re-located to the jungles of the American high school, and is initially overwhelmed by its politics and class system. At first, she befriends the "outcasts and weirdoes," including goth girl Janice (Lizzy Caplan) and the requisite overweight gay guy, Damian (a hilarious Daniel Franzese). Then Cady falls for the hunky Aaron (Jonathan Bennett), who just happens to have dated the queen of the "plastics," Regina George (Rachel McAdams), and Cady is then accepted into the coolest clique in school. At first, Cady and her friends plan to dismantle Regina and the "mean girls," but when Cady gets a little taste of what it feels like to be popular, well...
What follows in 'Mean Girls' is fairly predictable, but even old ground like this can seem fresh when it's done with intelligence and wit. 'Mean Girls' does what the best teen movies do -- it makes us laugh while casting a knowing, adult eye on the terror and tensions that we remember as high school life. It also works equally well for teens and adults. But 'Mean Girls' real secret weapon is not Lohan (though she's really quite good), but Fey. Her script isn't just smarter than the genre demands, it knows inside and out the hierarchies that will always exist in high school, and the severe emotional damage we often inflict upon each other during those tenuous four years. It's really quite ugly and brutal, and what's so sharp about 'Mean Girls' is it manages to leaven its quite-acidic underbelly with great humor, quirky characters, and tons of classic scenes and lines.
Directed by Mark Waters (who also piloted Lohan in another strong performance in 'Freaky Friday'), 'Mean Girls' takes some admirable chances with its broad humor and visual excesses. Though I wasn't quite into Cady's animal-escapade daydreams (the allusions to her character's previous life in Africa don't quite come off as surreal, just pretentious), most of the rest of the movie's tone hits the bull's-eye. From Damian doing a hilarious gay version of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" at the school talent contest to McAdams' pitch-perfect vocal inflections as the school bitch to end all school bitches, 'Mean Girls' creates it's own memorable and recognizable, if slightly heightened, universe. Even the numerous cameos by Fey's fellow 'Saturday Night Live' cohorts don't feel forced -- particularly memorable is Fey herself as one of Lohan's knowing teachers, and Tim Meadows, who plays the best high school principal since Jeffrey Jones's Rooney in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off.'
If 'Mean Girls' suffers, it may be in the inevitable dating of its fashions and references. Already, just a few years on, the clothes, lingo ("Fetch is not going to happen!") and music seem oh-so-2004. But like all the better teen films of the past few decades, whether it be 'Rebel Without a Cause' or 'American Graffiti' or 'Clueless,' I think 'Mean Girls' will persevere, because at its heart, it is about universal experiences that remain central to the shared teen experience. 'Mean Girls' may not be quite in to the same league as some of those classics, but this is no wannabe.
Paramount provides a very vibrant and attractive 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.78:1) for 'Mean Girls.' It looks pretty great.
'Mean Girls' is impossibly colorful, with a palette drenched in excessive primaries and plenty of pink. Hues remain wonderfully bright but solid, with a surprising lack of noise or overstylization. Fleshtones look far more natural than I expected. Blacks are rich, too, with poppy contrast that doesn't overdo it or bloom out. Depth is strong, with excellent visible detail and strong shadow delineation. A few scenes suffer a bit from being slightly dark, and there is the occasional soft patch, but overall 'Mean Girls' looks excellent for a recent catalog release.
This English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) sounds better than it needs to. 'Mean Girl's is bolstered by surprisingly active sound design, well above average for this type of film.
Surrounds are quite alive with fun discrete effects, and excellent dispersion of the soundtrack and score. This isn't an action movie and there isn't constant atmosphere, but the overall 360-degree effect is in evidence far more than a teen comedy would suggest. Dialogue is also spot-on, with healthy dynamic range and punchy, supportive low bass. I won't say "crank it up," but 'Mean Girls' sounds great at high volume.
Paramount ports over all of the DVD extras on 'Mean Girls' to the Blu-ray. Nothing new here for fans, but it's pretty good stuff nonetheless. All video is 480i/MPEG-2 only.
'Mean Girls' is undoubtedly the best teen comedy to come down the pike in quite a while. Tina Fey's writing is sharp and witty, and Lindsay Lohan delivers perhaps her finest performance (seriously, I just said that). This Blu-ray is Grade A, too, with bright video and audio and entertaining supplements. Worth a look.