Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey takes on high-school cliques and bullying in her first feature script, which combines wicked humor and some terrifying real-life examples of real-life bad behavior culled from Rosalind Wiseman's nonfiction bestseller Queen Bees & Wannabes. Raised in Africa and home-schooled by her zoologist parents (Neil Flynn, Ana Gasteyer), Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) has some trouble adapting to the fiercely stratified world of North Shore High School. She quickly sees the parallels between her fellow teens' behavior and the dynamics of a wilderness watering hole, and realizes that Darwin's observations regarding the survival of the fittest could have been made in any high-school cafeteria. Fortunately for Cady, the school "art freaks", Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damien (Daniel Franzese), clue her in to the subtleties of teen society, with special emphasis on the ways of their archenemies, the brutally superficial popular girls collectively known as the Plastics. The uber-teens — mega-rich Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), whose family fortune was built on toaster pastries; brainless Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), who thinks her breasts can forecast the weather; and queen-bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams), who rules with an iron fist and backhanded compliments — invite self-proclaimed math-lover Cady to have lunch with them on a trial basis. Although Cady's idea of fun is concerned-but-melancholy Mrs. Norbury's (Fey) senior calculus class, the Plastics offer a crash course in girl world mores. You can only wear a ponytail once a week, gossip contributions to their bitchy burn book is mandatory and, above all, ex-boyfriends are off-limits to friends. And that's a problem, since Cady has already developed a major crush on Aaron (Jonathan Bennett), who happens to have once been Regina's boyfriend. Cady tries to keep her romantic feelings under wraps while conspiring with Janis and Damien to melt the Plastics without getting burned. A truly vicious mainstream black comedy about high-school violence and bullying like HEATHERS (1989) would be a hard sell in the post-Columbine era, but Fey's screenplay goes as far as it can and director Mark Waters (whose brother, Daniel, wrote HEATHERS) strikes a carefully calibrated balance between the film's darkly malicious sense of humor and its pastel sets and costumes. Lohan thrives in her fish-out-of-water-turned-piranha role and the mean girls are impressively mean. But without the exemplary supporting cast, notably Franzese and Amy Poehler as Regina's "cool" but oblivious mom, they'd be buzzing around in circles.
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