(In theaters, July 2004) Now that’s a teen comedy worth watching even if you’re older than 15. Scripted with great skill by Tina Fey, from Rosalind Wiseman’s non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence (!), Mean Girls even feels like a teen comedy written by adults. It’s not quite Heathers, but it’s almost up to Clueless‘ level in sheer sustained viewing pleasure. (It’s also jam-packed with good quotes). Lindsay Lohan is cute and believable as Cady Heron, a home-schooled girl abruptly thrown in the cesspool of high school at age 16. Fortunately, she’s not the only highlight in this film, which features a strong supporting cast of characters, with even the most minor ones getting a chance to shine (props to Rajiv Surendra and the Mathletes!). I especially liked the “rediscover your inner nerd-ness” message implicit in the finale, and the biting social commentary on schools. This film is a blessing after so many cookie-cutter teen comedies without any kind of social conscience (yes, Sleepover, I mean you.) A fine film that is probably going to find its own adult audience.
(Second viewing, On DVD, December 2004) Months later, this film still retains a tremendous amount of wit and charm –enough it leave it squarely in the running as one of the most enjoyable releases of the year. Written by an adult for brainy teenagers, Mean Girls could have coasted a long time on the innate charm of Lindsey Lohan and her assorted co-stars, but there’s a lot of depth to the screenplay, and the direction is suitably efficient. More than worth a look, and the extra material on the DVD will do much to satisfy all fans of the film.