What is it about high school movies? They are like kryptonite to the cinetrix: Before them she is weak and powerless to resist. It's popular to cite/blame John Hughes for his apres moi, le deluge influence on the genre, but in the West, at least, nearly everybody attends some sort of secondary school. As a setting, it's a no-brainer.
Here's the thing: My high school was nothing like any high school I've seen on film. Was anybody's? Oh, there were mean girls, and softball players, and mathletes, and anorexics--anthropologically speaking, kids are the same the world over. But Shermer High seemed as far removed from my reality as, say, Tatooine. That's why making Mean Girls' protagonist, Cady, a kid who's been homeschooled by her zoologist parents in Africa is so smart. High school is like a jungle sometimes. Maybe every kid wonders how to keep from going under.
Mean Girls genuflects to the Hughes oeuvre by locating its high school in suburban Chicago [also a shout-out to the Second City that brought screenwriter Tina Fey to national prominence]. And it earns extra credit for opening to a cover of Blondie's "Rip Her to Shreds," so the cinetrix is not going to lose too much sleep worrying over a teen girl movie that gives so many of its best lines to the gay boy, Damien. Eh, those [age-appropriate] Lohan fans need to learn about fag haggery sometime. After all, without smart nerdy girls and gay boys, who would make catty remarks at the prom when the king and queen are elected? Or grow up to make movies about high school? Rajiv Surendra, as hip-hop mathlete Kevin Gnapoor, also deserves big ups for a genius posturing b-boy performance that rests comfortably next to Seth Green's in Can't Hardly Wait. [Can comedic movie b-boys even be black anymore?]
Overall, Mean Girls is entertaining, if uneven, and the performances are much better than anyone has a right to expect from a Lorne Michaels production. The one thing the movie does particularly well is expertly expose and skewer the depressing phenomenon of smart girls consciously setting aside achievement in favor of popularity, as though it is an either/or proposition. That's right, tweener girls. A boy might still like you even if you get a better grade on the calc test. [Yes, being as racktastic as Lohan wouldn't hurt.] The cinetrix loves that Tina Fey deliberately cast herself as a math teacher and wrote Cady as a mathlete hottie, no hyphenate needed. For that alone, Fey gets a big, liquory kiss.
Oh, yeah, and using a Peaches track during a high school party scene? Nice.
[Here's a fun game. Go to the Rotten Tomatoes page for Mean Girls and count how many male critics laud the movie for its accurate depiction of girl world. Oh, gentlemen, you may have been to high school, but you have no idea.]