Lindsay Lohan stars as new-kid-in-town Cady Heron, fresh from the plains of Africa where her parents have been studying wildlife. When her mother gets a position at Northwestern, it's back to the States where she must attend classes like everyone else. Customary first-day humiliation ensues.
She falls in at first with outcasts Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) and then with the popular crew led by the Machiavellian Regina (Rachel McAdams), always seen with slavish lackeys Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried). Together they collectively make Jessica Simpson look like Gertrude Stein. Cady begins as a sort of rogue agent, befriending Regina while plotting against her with Janis and Damian. But thanks to romantic entanglements with Regina's ex-boyfriend Aaron (Jonathan Bennett), she becomes more obsessed with defeating the plastic princess than her friends ever were. Thus begins Cady's slow transformation from wide-eyed naïf to selfish bitch. Think of it as Wall Street with social currency.
Writer/co-star Tina Fey (adapting Rosalind Wiseman's bestseller Queen Bees and Wannabes) takes us on this familiar journey with sharper than average teen dialogue. Her experience as co-head writer on Saturday Night Live helps add a touch of satirical bite to the formula. The film targets teen body-obsession, overly permissive parents, and inept sex-ed, but often opts for a feather touch when a rapier wit is more appropriate to the task.
Still, the film manages to bring life to some of the conventions of the genre with strong supporting performances. Fellow SNL alum Tim Meadows delivers a great deadpan turn as the principal. Other strong support comes from Daniel Franzese, who rises above his standard issue gay best friend role. And Rajiv Surendra nearly steals the show as a "mathlete" with a business card that reads "Kevin Gnapoor: Math Enthusiast/Bad Ass MC."
The real revelation, however, is Lohan, who fulfills the promise of her Freaky Friday performance by carrying this film without the help of an established co-star like Jamie Lee Curtis. Her comic timing is getting sharper and you can tell that she's operating at a level just slightly above her compatriots. It probably doesn't hurt that she's working again with her Freaky director Mark Waters.
That's not to say that this outing is as strong as that director's previous effort. In spite of its occasional satirical jabs, the film is hoist on its own political petard more than once. Just how feminist is a film that decries teen girls' obsessions with their bodies, yet lingers on said bodies during a sexy "Jingle Bell Rock" number? And about half of the gay-themed humor feels vaguely homophobic. It's as if the film can't decide whether or not it wants to be PC. Committing to either direction would make for a more solid comedy.
Ultimately, the smart choices the film makes outweigh its murky message. This falls into the category of teen fare that's better than you'd expect. It's no Heathers but it's at least in the same league as 10 Things I Hate About You.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my chart.
DVD features include several making-of featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, commentary by Waters, Fey, and Lorne Michaels, and a handful of other extras.
Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Friday 30th April 2004
Box Office USA: $86.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $129M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 146 Rotten: 29
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Mark Waters
Producer: Lorne Michaels
Screenwriter: Tina Fey
Starring: Lindsay Lohan as Cady Heron, Rachel McAdams as Regina George, Lacey Chabert as Gretchen Wieners, Amanda Seyfried as Karen Smith, Tina Fey as Ms. Norbury, Tim Meadows as Mr. Duvall, Lizzy Caplan as Janis Ian, Amy Poehler as Mrs. George, Daniel Franzese as Damian, Ana Gasteyer as Cady's mom, Jonathan Bennett as Aaron Samuels