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Heroes of the Zeroes: Mean Girls

by on July 10, 2010
 

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Mean Girls”
Rated PG-13
2004

Remember back to 2004, when journalists used words like “promise” and “comedienne” about Lindsay Lohan — a 17-year-old with discernible color, curves, cheeks and capabilities to carry a concept comedy.

Today, it’s “probation,” “cocaine” and court orders to carry an alcohol-monitoring anklet as well as, unexpectedly, head to jail. Sadly, Lohan is more likely to die before 30 than land another comic lead as suitable to her talent (kindly assuming it hasn’t been squandered) as her effervescent turn in “Mean Girls.”

Tina Fey’s screenplay was an observant equal-opportunity offender about how high school remains a jungle of cliques, hormones and haughtiness.

Lohan is Cady, an Africa-raised teenager whose stateside return to high school pits her against a popular group called the Plastics (Rachel McAdams’ schemer, Lacey Chabert’s flunky and Amanda Seyfried’s ditz).

Its recognizable truths are funny — inept sex-ed instruction, nerd aggression in scholastic-bowl competition, Tim Meadows as a powerless principal. But Fey and director Mark Waters aren’t reductive, or lazy, enough to leave it at laughter.

Words like “fugly,” “bitch” and “slut” wound here, while a culture of promiscuity that’s permissible to a point and the idea that “girl-world” fighting must be “sneaky” become double standards of decorum that, honestly, aren’t confined to high school. (“30 Rock” flourishes, but multiplexes miss Fey’s savvy, sassy screenwriting.)

Fey knows even teenagers’ most horrible behavior is simply a cry for approval. Sometimes that persists into adulthood. If Lohan’s lucky, there’s time to make “Mean Girls” not a fluke but a form to recapture.