'Mean Girls 2' twice as nasty as the original
Sunday, January 23, 2011
In the last scene of "Mean Girls," the 2004 movie written by Tina Fey that navigated the clique-filled halls of high school hell, everything seems blissful - until Lindsay Lohan's character, having established tranquillity among the school's warring ranks, eyes three perfectly coiffed freshman girls strolling around. Seconds later, the three younger students narrowly miss being hit by a school bus, and after a warning from Lohan that they better think twice before disturbing the peace, the credits roll.
As in a superhero flick, their survival left room for a follow-up. And sure enough, like a reliable friend - or a movie franchise worth millions of dollars - "Mean Girls" returns, in the form of a sequel that has its worldwide premiere Sunday on ABC Family.
The saddest part about "Mean Girls 2" (and there are several) is that if it didn't bill itself as a follow-up to the original - which holds a special place in pop culture as one of the few genuine, non-cliche teen movies out there - it might have had a shot as the kind of harmless guilty-pleasure Sunday night movie that ABC Family loves to air.
Instead, this film has attached itself to the clever original, so it deserves any and all inevitable unfavorable comparisons.
"Mean Girls 2" picks up where the first left off, at the same North Shore High with the same deadpan principal, Mr. Duvall (the always-welcome Tim Meadows, the only returning cast member), who clearly hates his life. Who wouldn't? For all of the hard work the determined heroines of the original movie went through to break down barriers between the popular girls, a.k.a. "the Plastics," and everybody else, nothing much has changed - a trio of stick-thin girls rules the school with cruelty, intimidation and headbands with comically large flowers.
In place of Lohan, the spunky underdog here is Jo (Meaghan Martin), a transfer student who would rather help her father restore car engines than participate in any annoying "girl drama." We know right away that she's supposed to be an outsider, because she wears leather pants and rides a Vespa to school.
The Plastics are led by the evil Mandi (Maiara Walsh). She dots the "i" in her name with a heart - probably because, as Jo explains, she does not have that organ. Her two lesser sidekicks are Chastity (Claire Holt), who will make out with any boy at any time, and Hope (Nicole Gale Anderson), a germaphobe convinced that germs lead to ugliness and ugliness leads to death.
Jo quickly gets sucked into the teen drama. Jealousy issues are probably why Mandi is so nasty - it's never really explained. And when Jo comes along, Mandi is determined to take her down.
This is where the film, fairly tolerable when we're getting introduced to all the main players, really goes off the rails and sets off a truly mean-spirited prank war between the two groups for almost no reason (don't worry - there's an anti-bullying PSA at the end of it all). Mandi tries to ruin Jo's chances at getting into college; Jo tricks Mandi's boyfriend into throwing up all over her.
The original "Mean Girls" accurately and hilariously portrayed high school as a jungle, offering smart observations about teen girls and their methods of survival during adolescence. The big metaphor in the sequel is cars. As Jo's engine mechanic dad tells her, and she repeats multiple times, "To win the race, you have to be in the race." This would be a more effective lesson if you were rooting for anyone to win the malicious and unfunny Plastics vs. anti-Plastics war.
No one's under any illusion that this film will have the same staying power - it goes to DVD on Feb. 1. Still, it's unfortunate that it tries to ride the coattails of the rest of the characters in Fey's spot-on script.
Mean Girls 2 (two hours) airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on ABC Family.