Times like these made me lucky that I’ve moved on from high school. Never been bullied or spread rumors, I’ve always just kept things to myself and my friends around me. The only people who might’ve been considered popular were the ones taking the advanced class. Mean Girls made me thankful that this and other comedies centered around high school aren’t too realistic, which makes this my kind of high school movie to enjoy a ton, and you can see why this was one of the best movies to come out of 2004.
What’s the Story: 16-year-old Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) and her zoologist parents have returned to the United States from Africa after 12 years. The decision to transition from homeschool to attending high school for the first time isn’t an easy feat for her, as it’s more of trying to survive in a land of cliques. Cady comes across the most popular clique in all of North Shore- The Plastics, run by Queen Bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams). Fitting in well enough, she soon realizes how cruel she truly is, and now Cady is gonna do what it takes to bring her down.
Since I noticed Mean Girls was turning 16 this year, it seems appropriate to talk about another one of my favorite comedies ever made. Yes, I love this movie. I actually remember seeing this on its opening weekend in the theater with my mom and sister. The reason for me being there probably wasn’t explained, which made me question why I went to see movies that’s target audience was for girls (Sleepover, A Cinderella Story). We were cutting in close to making it, and the only trailer we caught was for the remake of The Stepford Wives. How do I even remember that? I didn’t have any expectations when walking into this, but Mean Girls is just one of those teen comedies that gets better on multiple re-watches.
Tina Fey, who plays calculus teacher Sharon Norbury, wrote the screenplay when she was still on Saturday Night Live, as it was loosely based on a nonfiction self-help book she read called “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman. I would’ve never known that since I always thought the idea came straight from her mind, but Fey borrowed certain elements from the book and added her own high school experiences and director Mark Waters brought it to life in 2000’s new obsession in the same tradition of 1989’s Heathers and 1995’s Clueless. To this day, this is the best movie he’s directed in his career as a filmmaker. Here we have a solid script full of relatable characters and enough laughs to get us through the next scene.
Her first day doesn’t go too well, but Cady’s second day gets a little better once she meets those who know their ways around school. When Cady infiltrates the group, that’s when it becomes more interesting. She recommends Regina to eat these Swedish to make her lose weight but does the opposite. At first, sabotaging Regina was only helping her status grow finer and still keep her new crush Aaron Samuels (Johnathan Bennet), a.k.a. Regina’s ex-boyfriend, still attached to her. Once Cady starts to become one of the Plastics, she becomes a slightly different person, almost acting like Regina.
Lohan re-teams with Waters right after working previously on the remake of Freaky Friday, and I always thought her performance as Cady is my favorite from her. I can’t remember who else was up for the role or originally wanted to play the part of Regina, but there’s no one else to play this part. Is it always a shame to know she’ll never be in a good movie again? You bet. But this and anything else she did before showed she was a capable actress. We’ve already gained an attachment to liking Cady. She’s the prime example of the main character that’s easy to root for the entire time.
But you can’t have a classic high school comedy protagonist without a queen bee. McAdams has given great performances after her career skyrocketed after this, but I personally believe her role as Regina George is her best and most memorable. That’s right, the same year she also did The Notebook. I can’t remember if I saw her first in this or The Hot Chick, but I’m sure this was it. Regina George has been recognized as one of the most popular fictional high school villains in comedies where you’re fearful of her and wants to worship her at her feet. Sure, she was 25 when this was filmed, but she was easily believable as a high school student. Her character is one that you just love to hate. She can create drama that can happen in real-life to certain people.
Everybody knows who the Plastics are since they run the school. Can’t forget about Lacey Chabert as Gretchen Wieners, who’s the one that can’t keep a secret and word vomits anything to Cady. Probably the best movie she’s ever in. Amanda Seyfried made her film debut as Karen, the dumb blonde of the Plastics, fresh out of high school, and it comes to show how talented she’s going to be a decade later. Both of them completely nailed their parts. I’ve always thought Seyfried was a good actress, but I always feel bad whenever she’s in a mediocre movie when she’s so good. Lucky for her, this is a great movie.
If I was the new kid, having Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan) and her “too gay to function” friend Damian Leigh (Daniel Franzese) wouldn’t be so bad to hang out with. They are considered the outsiders at school, where they are the first to befriend Cady right away. Right when I first saw Caplan in this, not only was she great, but she will always be the funniest in a television show or movie, even if most don’t live up to high standards. But my favorite character that steals the entire movie is Damian. Honestly, Damian has to be my favorite gay character in a comedy where I’m just anticipating what he has to say whenever he’s around Cady and/or Janis. He reminded me of a young Vince Vaughn first seeing him, and there’s no other character like him. Who else can sing Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” so perfectly? Only Damian, that’s who.
But how funny is this movie? No cheap laughs here. It’s so hysterical that everybody can get a lot of laughs out of it. This had that smart humor that worked perfectly without many jokes that fell flat. If it had to be anything other than a comedy, the reaction would’ve been a lot different. How often I think about saying certain quotes if too many the count. Why I always thought the 2000s was the best decade for the genre is because so many of the lines are too memorable to forget. Most of the funniest quotes pretty much came from him, including “FOUR for you, Glenn Coco! You go, Glenn Coco.” or “That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.” But my all-time favorite line that’s straight-up killer was when a random girl makes a heartfelt confession, and he yelled out, “She doesn’t even go here!” Why was she there? We will never know? All we know is that she had a lot of feelings. I also love the irony of him yelling out that fact when he isn’t supposed to be in the gymnasium.
Lorne Michaels produced this, so it wasn’t a total surprise to see a few SNL alums throughout, making it feel like the old days. The best thing going for it is that those included didn’t turn this into an SNL movie based on a series of sketches. Besides Fey as Ms. Norbury, Tim Meadows doesn’t do too bad of a job as Principal Duvall; Amy Poehler as Regina’s mother who feels too involved in her daughter’s life; and Ana Gasteyer as Cady’s mother.
If there’s a lesson to take away from Mean Girls, it would be to know that there should never be a reason why girls shouldn’t spread rumors about other girls, especially when they’re in high school. I didn’t get it back then, but I do now. Even Fey said it best when he said, “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.” This came out at a time where social media wasn’t a huge thing and had the story be more realistic back then. This made me wonder if there were any cliques when I was in high school, and do they even still exist today? From a guy’s perspective, girls pushing other girls down is never a good thing when it just creates more difficulties for everyone. Near the end, Cady gave a sweet confession about how we should get along. That comes into play when it comes to “The Burn Book.” Man, that scene where all the girls were fighting each other from what Regina caused was both hilarious but feels like it could happen in real-life. Just be yourself and don’t just change to impress your peers. That plays well Cady wants to join the Mathletes later on when it’s social suicide to others.
As this turns 16 this year, the fact this is still a cult classic is one of the best things going for it. I even watched this on October 3 (“Mean Girls Day”) just four years ago because it felt like it was the right day to watch it again. Like most movies in the world, they turned it into a Broadway musical that I really want to see since I’m a fan. But the worst thing to come out of this is a direct-to-DVD sequel that should’ve never been made for any human to watch.
Mean Girls had classic written all over a decade ago. You’re never bothered with any of the performances when they’re great from Lohan and McAdams, and it did its job at being both engaging and funny for anybody to love. This is one comedy that I have to watch before you die. It’s better to watch this rather than her other 2004 movie that I completely forgot about, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. “Fetch” might not have been a slang most hasn’t used, but this comedy is “so fetch.”
Overall Grade: A-