Dir: Mark Waters. US.2004. 97 mins.
A cut above the low-cost teenage movies churned out of Hollywood studiosthese days, Mean Girls is a smart comedy with an acerbic edge which hasalready found a wide audience in North America, taking more than $42m after twoweeks on release, and should carve out a lesser, but still ample, slice ofbusiness in international markets.

Blending elements of She'sAll That and Heathers, Mean Girls will generate a strongfollowing among teens but the comedy is far from puerile, and adults in their20s and 30s will chuckle at the bitchiness of the high school girls which iscaptured with aplomb by screenwriter Tina Fey, director Mark Waters and theexcellent cast.

In releasing the filminternationally, UIP will be unable to bank on audience knowledge of the film'stalent pedigree. Fey is currently the chief writer for NBC's long-runningsketch show Saturday Night Live (SNL), which has launched starsincluding Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers and Adam Sandler as well as movie spin-offssuch as Wayne's World, Superstar and A Night At The Roxbury.Indeed, Mean Girls is produced by SNL's famous producer LorneMichaels and features SNL regulars Tim Meadows, Ana Gasteyer and AmyPoehler who are household names in the US.

The concept is universalenough however to make a mark in foreign territories and the youngabove-the-title star Lindsay Lohan has some international awareness from lastyear's Disney hit Freaky Friday.

Fey has taken RosalindWiseman's earnest non-fiction book Queen Bees And Wannabes, a guide forteenage girls to navigating the treacherous waters of high school, and createda fictional storyline incorporating its advice.

Lohan, a teen queen whosecredits include Freaky Friday (also directed by Waters) and ConfessionsOf A Teenage Drama Queen, comes of age in Mean Girls with aself-possessed turn as a pretty 15 year-old called Cady Heron who arrives athigh school in the mid-west, having spent the first 15 years of her lifeeducated at home in the African bush by her zoologist parents.

A clean slate when it comesto the hazards and politics of American public school, she quickly falls inwith the bohemian goth Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and her gay best friend Damian(Daniel Franzese) who tell her all about the Plastics, the hated and reveredtrio of hip, beautiful mean girls led by poisonous Queen Bee Regina George(McAdams).

Befriended by Regina one dayin the school lunch room, Cady is both flattered and intimidated by theattention but agrees to spend more time with the Plastics on the pretext ofinfiltrating their inner sanctum and revealing all to Janis and Damian. Shesoon falls foul of Regina by expressing interest in her ex-boyfriend AaronSamuels (Jonathan Bennett), but by the time she realizes Regina's treachery,she has been seduced by life as a Plastic and has come too far in the world ofmean-ness to turn back.

Fey's script, while witty,knowing and full of memorable one-liners, is ultimately convoluted and thereare too many twists and turns on the path to Cady's redemption, which of coursecomes at the school prom. But the film possesses a refreshing subversiveness:the fact that Lohan's character is far from blameless in the bitchy goings-onmakes for a more ambiguous moral code than is usual in these pictures.

Parents who frowned at EvanRachel Wood and Nikki Reed in Thirteen will be horrified at the sexualprowess of these 15 year-old mean girls. When The Plastics perform SantaClaus Is Coming To Town dressed like Playboy bunnies in the school revue,there is no doubt as to their intentions.

Prod cos: Paramount Pictures
Worldwide dist:
Exec prod:
Jill Messick
Lorne Michaels
Tina Fey, based on the bookQueen Bees And Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip,Boyfriends And Other Realities Of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman
Daryn Okada
Prod des:
Cary White
Wendy Greene Bricmont
Rolfe Kent
Main cast:
Lindsay Lohan, RachelMcAdams, Tim Meadows, Ana Gasteyer, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Lacey Chabert