It may be that a smart, funny film produced by Lorne Michaels and peppered with some of his SNL-ers may be one of the Signs of the Apocalypse, but I say, bring it on. Besides, for girls that have survived the social tortures of high school, Armageddon will surely be a cakewalk.
Take Cady, a blank slate of high school junior, who has been home-schooled in Africa by her funky academic parents. Now at North Shore High in Illinois, she's about to learn the hard way about adolescent pecking order and the positively feral behavior between teen-age girls. She gets an early crash-course from two friendly outsiders, an art-freak named Janis Ian (kids, ask your mom for help if you don't get this joke) and Damien, a roly-poly proto bitchy queen.
Then there's The Plastics -- the three prettiest, coolest, pinkest and meanest girls in school. When The Plastics sniff around Cady, she joins in, ostensibly as an undercover op. But she quickly falls under the spell of the Plastics' Queen Bee, the appropriately named Regina (Rachel McAdams), and discovers that being popular, smart and nice is not compatible in this animal kingdom. Lindsay Lohan, with her girl-next-door good looks, is perfectly cast as Cady; she could be the nice girl who just happens to be pretty, or the pretty girl who just happens to be a stone-cold bitch.
Mean Girls is directed with candy-colored affection by Mark Waters (who helmed last year's better-than-average teen-girl romp Freaky Friday, also with Lohan), but the big air-kisses belong to SNL actress and scribe Tina Fey, who adapted Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 social study, Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence, into a savvy, snappy film. Fey also has a small role as a math teacher.
The film is laugh-out-loud funny, but it cuts too close to reality to ever feel like parody. And unlike standard teen features that reinforce the popular kids, or the second wave of teen-flicks that elevate the outsider to near-mythic status, Mean Girls dares to establish some truths: In, out or in-between -- teens want to belong, to be liked, to be recognized. The "cool" outsiders don't get a pass in this film: Their obsession with The Plastics not only defines them, but ironically and even unfairly, ends up simply elevating The Plastics' status more
Mean Girls wraps up with some palatable lessons about maturity, but admits there's no cure for adolescence. The minute the film was over, the mean tween behind me rang up her friend on her cell phone and under the guise of "sharing," purposefully gave away the film's big surprise ending. Welcome to the jungle.