Case Number 16137: Small Claims Court


Paramount // 2004 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Daniel MacDonald (Retired) // April 13th, 2009

The Charge

Welcome to Girl World.

The Case

What a difference five years makes.

When Mean Girls hit theater screens in April 2004, it was somewhat of an unknown quantity. Starring a pre-The Notebook Rachel McAdams, a pre-Mamma Mia! Amanda Seyfried, and a pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan (Bobby), the movie didn't have a ton of star power. Throw in a screenplay (and supporting turn) by Tina Fey, whose name everyone knows now thanks to 2008's 30 Rock/Sarah Palin perfect storm, and you've got a pretty fortuitous mix of talent on what could have been a rote teen comedy. Drawing an $86 million domestic gross with a $17 million budget, Mean Girls was a solid hit for Paramount Studios. Is it any good, though?

Yes, yes it is. Mean Girls doesn't rewrite the genre or push any boundaries (indeed, one of the deleted scenes includes explicit drinking and some sex talk, two things missing from a comedy that promotes itself as "edgy"), but it is a heckuva lot smarter than most films of its ilk. Mean Girls follows Cady Heron (Lohan) as she navigates her first year of public school, having been home-schooled in Africa up to this point. Cady quickly discovers the joys of high school politics, where picking a seat in the lunchroom can have severe social implications. Cady ends up befriending Regina (McAdams) and her wealthy crew, referred to lovingly as "The Plastics," a trio of girls that takes special pleasure in putting down anyone who doesn't measure up, and slowly finds her down-to-earth demeanor morphing into an attitude far more ruthless. Eventually, Cady must decide between being herself and being what Regina wants her to be.

Throughout this simple tale, Fey's unique brand of wit shines through, especially in her own scenes with fellow Saturday Night Live alumnus Tim Meadows (The Ladies Man). Dialogue is generally sharp, and the fast pace ensures we're never too far from a joke that works. Less successful in Mean Girls are the characters of Damian (Daniel Franzese, War of the Worlds) and Janis (Lizzy Caplan, Cloverfield), a pair of misfits who quickly attach themselves to Cady and use her to exact revenge on Regina. Both are overwhelmingly sincere and annoyingly sure of themselves, working against the satire present in other scenes. Both are appealing enough actors; their roles just seem out of place.

On Blu-ray, Mean Girls looks pretty good. With a bitrate in the low-thirties and encoded in AVC, there are no signs of compression artifacts or mosquito noise. The image is never so sharp as to suggest excessive edge enhancement, and flesh tones look natural (save for Lacey Chabert's fake tan). Unfortunately, the lighting is rather flat and pedestrian: shadow detail is a non-issue since everything is so evenly exposed, and colors rarely pop. This is the first Blu-ray disk I've seen where the image didn't really impress me, although I'm sure it's a very accurate reproduction of the theatrical experience.

Audio, in Dolby TrueHD, is more in line with what I've come to expect, namely a marked improvement over standard DVD. While there's not a whole lot going on in terms of sound design, the frequent music cues and animal effects come across with a wide dynamic range and a broad sound field. Surround channels are frequently engaged and blend naturally with the front stage. It's not a demo disc, but Mean Girls has never sounded better.

All of the special features from the DVD release have been ported over, including a feature-length commentary, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and a handful of featurettes. All are in standard edition, but the theatrical trailer does appear in high def, which is an always-appreciated bonus.

Mean Girls is a popular teen comedy of above-average intelligence, and it's great to see it make its way to Blu-ray. While I can't really recommend it as an upgrade over standard def, thanks to a lackluster lighting design that hardly shows off what Blu can do, this is the one to buy if you don't already own it.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Daniel MacDonald; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 87

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Blooper Reel
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb