Watching Mean Girls reminds you what good, sharp teen comedy is. As one of the only remaining smart teen comedies, Mean Girls is a complex look at how a high school clique functions, written by Saturday Night Live alum Tina Fey. The movie, which opened in theatres roughly eight years ago, is too well built to be just another teen comedy, and too hilarious to be just another comedy. It’s a gem of a movie and a life long classic.
For this, we have Saturday Night Live’s former head writer and performer to thank. Watching Tina Fey’s Mean Girls answers the question: what if I wrote about the cut throat atmosphere of teen cliques in high school?
Tina Fey answers that question eloquently in her script, an adaptation of “Queen Bees and Wannabees.” Yet her spin on the book becomes a clever and comical look at a girl trying to understand high school and the queen bees: The Plastics.
Surely every teenager has had some sort of confrontation with a clique like The Plastics: teen royalty. Cady, a teenager home schooled in Africa for her entire life, is brought to the U.S. and forced to go to a regular high school. Yet, unlike every other screenplay, Cady is totally foreign to any social rituals. The narration she provides throughout the movie comes as her pure observations of what is going on around her.
In Cady’s observations, Fey’s deadpan and snarky voice shines. The straight humor Fey displays on SNL’s Weekend Update is a perfect fit for Cady’s narration. Though the narration provides an interesting look at the intricacies of cliques and the rituals of teenagers, the movie’s true strength lies in the comic tension and supporting actors.
Comic tension often arises as Cady struggles with social rituals and as she plots to take down the Plastics. In her plotting to take down The Plastics, viewers discover exactly what they are looking for: humor, oddly specific rituals (such as the Burn Book, a book where insults about every classmate are written down), and a girl getting lost and found in the struggle to understand high school.
The film would be less of a hit, however, without the supporting actors. These actors, most of which are Fey’s fellow SNL cast members, touch on the bumps on the road that teachers and parents have to deal with when they have teenagers. Amy Poehler, who plays the queen bee’s spunky and oddly accepting mother, adds a lively and spontaneous feel to the movie. Ana Gasteyer, who plays Cady’s mother and is one of Fey’s fellow SNL cast members, is both serious and seriously alienated in a hilarious and recognizable way. Additionally, Tim Meadows, yet another SNL alum, plays a weary and bemused principal that is awkward to a comedic fault.
Fey herself plays Cady’s math teacher, an awkward teacher with a knack for doing the wrong things at the wrong times. Starkly similar to the teachers you expect to find in high school today and the parents you wish you had in high school, these actors and improvisers bring comedic persona to their roles in a way that draws them out as more than supporting roles.
But none of the actors would shine without Fey’s brilliant writing. Much like her work on SNL, Fey has crafted Mean Girls as a perfect blend of comedic realism with an in-depth look at Suburbia cliques.
In the end, director Mark Walters ties everyone together with a tight bow. His direction of such a large group of talented people is beyond remarkable. Every shot and every word make Mean Girls feel like a series of dreams – that is, if your dreams take the root of a series of comedic sketches. Oh, your dreams aren’t a series of sketches? Oh, okay. Well, work on that. In the meantime, though, watch Mean Girls. This is one series of sketches producer Lorne Michaels can be proud of.
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