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      Mean Girls Review

      Mean Girls poster

      Mean Girls

      Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune

      The biting teen comedy "Mean Girls" heralds the silver-screen big bang of two promising careers: actress Lindsay Lohan and comedy writer/actor Tina Fey.

      In one movie, Lohan ("Freaky Friday") goes from a Disney-sculpted actress to her own star, transported by "Saturday Night Live" head writer Fey's nervy comic script. Lohan stars as 15-year-old Cady Heron, whose childhood in Africa with her zoologist parents leaves her ill-equipped for the jungle politics of high school in Evanston, Ill.

      Navigating the cliques and esoteric social costumes, Cady (pronounced "Katie") befriends social outcasts Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese), just as "The Plastics" reel her in. Led by queen bee Regina George (Rachel McAdams), The Plastics exercise complete, cruel rule over their high school. They are purveyors of all things cool, and before she knows it, Cady finds herself infiltrating the Plastics, reporting on their schemes to Janis and Damian.

      But Cady soon finds out "you are what you pretend to be," as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, as she adopts the intoxicatingly one-dimensional Plastic lifestyle. She even contributes to the Plastics' "burn book," a mean-spirited scrapbook of hateful rumor and innuendo about their schoolmates.

      Though not as dark as 1989's cult hit "Heathers" (coincidentally written by Daniel Waters, brother of "Mean Girls" director Mark S. Waters), Fey's script nevertheless tilts itself against the recent crop of teen movies (including Lohan's own glitzy bomb "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen").

      Fearless in its depiction of teen sexuality - or, more precisely, teenage sexual identity - "Mean Girls" doesn't deny that high-schoolers have sex, and it gives us a strong, gay teenager in Damian. (Friend Janis lovingly calls him "too gay to function.") Even so, the health teacher bellows, "Don't have sex - you will get pregnant and die" and "If you touch each other, you will get chlamydia and die" in front of the gym blackboard.

      Amazingly, "Mean Girls" manages to rail against stereotypes while still trafficking in them, thanks in part to Fey's adaptation of the nonfiction parental guidebook "Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence" by Rosalind Wiseman.

      Though not a perfect comedy, it manages to be quite often laugh-out-loud funny. The film's strong cast, including scene-stealing "SNL"er Tim Meadows as the school principal, also helps smooth out most of the rough edges.

      Just before the last third of the film, "Mean Girls" seems to wander after Cady transforms into a full-blooded Plastic. But if you're able to stick through a murky middle, you'll discover that Fey's script isn't rudderless - it's exploring new territory.

      "Mean Girls"

      Directed by Mark S. Waters; written by Tina Fey, inspired by the book by Rosalind Wiseman; photographed by Daryn Okada; production design by Cary White; edited by Wendy Greene Bricmont; music by Rolfe Kent; produced by Lorne Michaels. A Paramount Pictures release; opens Friday, April 30. Running time: 1:33. MPAA rating: PG-13 (sexual content, language and some teen partying).

      Cady Heron - Lindsay Lohan

      Regina George - Rachel McAdams

      Mr. Duvall - Tim Meadows

      Ms. Norbury - Tina Fey

      Gretchen Weiners - Lacey Chabert

      Aaron Samuels - Jonathan Bennett

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