Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 16th, 2009
Raise your hand if you’re sick and tired of Lindsay Lohan. Fortunately I can type with one hand. Honestly. How did this girl get to be so big? Why is she dominating our entertainment news cycles? Are there more than a handful of folks out there who think she has any talent at all? She’s nothing close to hot. It’s that wonderful modern phenomenon of being famous for being famous. It really does tend to color one’s opinions when you watch her in a film. She’s so overexposed, in more ways than one, that it’s impossible to watch her play any character without seeing the spoiled bratty whiner she has become so perfect at. Here she is supposed to be playing the sympathetic character, but am I just incredibly nasty because I can’t help but take glee in any punishment her character’s given? I’m rooting for the bad guys, or the Mean Girls, as the case may be.
Mean Girls has all the earmarks of a Saturday Night Live skit that ran too long. It could have to do with the production team that includes Lorne Michaels and the writing team that includes Tina Fey. And, while I’m at it, you know, I’m getting sick and tired of Fey, as well. These efforts at times go remarkably well, but more often than not, go horribly awry. Can you guess what direction this one goes? Actually, you might be surprised. Mean Girls is actually quite watchable and at times even very entertaining. It makes you wonder what in the heck happened to Lindsay Lohan.
Cady (Lohan) grew up in the wilds of Africa. No, she’s not a jungle kid. Her parents were zoologists who were studying the animals in the wilds of Africa. She was, by necessity, home schooled through most of her life. Now she’s going to go to school for the first time as a freshman in high school. She’s not very socially adapted and finds it hard to relate to most of her fellow students. Her first friends are school outcasts, Janice (Caplan), a goth chick, and Damien (Franzese), an overweight gay boy. When her looks are recognized by the cool girls in the school, she’s invited to join the trio of girls who call themselves The Plastics, for reasons I never quite understood. At first she’s reluctant to join the stylish clique, but Janice encourages her to join so that she can spy on them. Together Cady, Janice, and Damien work to bring down the group from the inside. Regina George (McAdams) is the leader of the small pack. Things get complicated when Cady falls for Aaron (Bennett), Regina’s ex-boyfriend. When Regina attempts to sabotage the two, Cady goes to war. She uses the animal behaviors she observed in Africa. She identifies Gretchen (Chabert) as the weak link in The Plastics. She sets out to turn the girls against each other by playing tricks on their insecurities. The plan works, but backfires somewhat as Cady discovers she’s only become the school’s next Regina. It wasn’t exactly what she was trying to do, but it kind of feels good. The situation gives her various perspectives on social behavior and ultimately friendship after her actions help to create a near riot among the girls of the school.
I have to admit that I don’t know much about the social order of high school girls, but as a teacher I’ve been in the position to observe the culture from close proximity. There’s no question that the film pretty much nails some of the more extreme characteristics of that group. While the activities and social networking methods have changed over the years, there is still that emotional terrorism going on. It’s the female version of the schoolyard bully. While the girls will rarely come to physical blows, there is that same element of terrorism going on. Girls appear to need to fit in more than boys so that social blackmail likely is just as painful for them as a black eye might be for a boy. So, I must admit that the film is cleverly written and captures its subjects quite convincingly. The problem is that guys just aren’t going to care that much. Which puts these mean girls strictly into the chick flick category, I’m afraid.
The casting is good. Lohan is just at her pre-self absorption point in her career. It was at a time when she actually was concentrating on her craft and not getting photographed in compromising positions. The girls all work well together and develop the chemistry that you might expect if this were a real high school setting. Like most teen films, most of the adults are extremely clueless. The ending sports a quasi-feel-good conclusion. If you like those kind of school antics films, this will rise above most.
Mean Girls is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This is a pretty good 1080p image brought to you through a strong AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The movie looks pretty good. It doesn’t hurt that the whole thing averages over 35 mbps. Colors are a little brighter than natural but overall present a pretty realistic world. Flesh tones are pretty much reference here. Black levels are solid. Contrast is not as strong as I would have liked, and the picture leans toward a bit of an overexposed look as far as lighting is concerned. None of that takes away from the film and likely is correctly stylized for this kind of a movie. There’s a lot of pink in this film so that at times the color appears to dominate. The nice color reproduction doesn’t push it toward red, but allows the nuances of the colors to remain intact. The movie doesn’t really lend itself to the level of detail you actually get here. It’s never that nuanced an image. There were a few rare examples of print damage that likely would not have been noticeable had this been a standard definition DVD.
The Dolby TrueHD isn’t really that impressive. The uncompressed sound clocks in at an average 4.0 mbps. It’s the musical numbers that benefit from the sound. Otherwise,it’s strictly dialog driven with little need of any ambient sounds or effects. The music’s often a bit too loud, but again I suspect that’s par for this kind of a film. You still hear the dialog just fine.
There is a Audio Commentary. The trio of Tina Fey, Lorne Michaels, and Mark Waters offer up some nice anecdotes during the run of the movie. There are too many moments of silence when it’s apparent none of them thought there was all that much to say about the film. It’s not worth the second run through to hear it.
All of these features are in SD.:
Featurettes: You can play them all at once for about a 46 minute running time, or split them up into three areas. The first is a typical behind the scenes affair with most of the cast and crew participating. The second is a talk about girl empowerment and the last deals wardrobe. It’s of note to hear Lohan talk about how she was originally planned to be Regina, but turned down the role because she was worried about what people would think of her if she played the “bad” girl. My, how things have changed.
Word Vomit: Translation: Gag Reel.
I just don’t get the culture of the film, so it was very hard for me to completely get into it. All of these girls calling each other sluts and whores. I know that’s pretty much what they do. I still don’t understand it, nor am I sure I even want to. In the commentary you learn that Aaron was intended to be a Chicago Bears fan, but the team would not allow their jerseys or logo in the film. That’s telling. Guys, you’ll pretty much spend the time either drooling at the girls or scratching your head. Girls will watch the film and rename all of the characters. “Oh that’s soooooooooooooo Diane”, or “I totally know her”. That’s fine. It’ll make the movie a little more fun. Sort of a girl’s version of Mystery Science Fiction Theater. “Grool”.