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***½ Mean Girls (2004)

Directed by Mark S. Waters

A young young goes under cover deep in enemy territory to spy on and and sabotage the leader of the enemy forces. But as she delves deeper and deeper into her role as an enemy agent, she finds the line between herself and her cover blurring. Can she stay undercover and still remain true to herself? Or will she compromise her principles in order to keep her cover?

The classic story of an undercover agent who becomes the cover and loses sense of her own identity. We've seen these war movies and cop movies before.

But this isn't a cop movie. Or a war movie. It's a high school comedy. But it's still an undercover agent movie, and follows the plotlines of those movies closely. As such it's really fascinating to watch.

Lindsay Lohan plays Cady (pronounced "Katie"), a young woman who has just returned to the states from a life spent home-schooling in "Africa." I put Africa in quotes because at no time does the movie specify what part of Africa she grew up in; it talks about Africa as if it is just one place. "Africa."

Anyway, she goes to high school and meets up with a couple of outcasts who get picked on by the badguys. But soon the badguys notice her and ask her to join them. Cady's outcast friends encourage her to do so; this way they'll have an agent on the inside and can wreak havok. Cady goes along, reluctantly at first, but then with full force once the leader of the badguys snags the boy on whom Cady had a crush.

Then Cady goes all out and tries to out-bitch the bitches at their own game. Will she lose herself in the game?

Well, since this is a comedy we can be reasonably certain that everything will work out more or less for the better in the end. But there are some good surprises along the way in this film. It may be formulaic in structure, but the individual happenings are not always what you'd expect. The characters in the film aren't as one-dimensional archetypes as they'd be in most movies. You can actually sympathise with the villains at various points throughout the movie, and sometimes the goodguys act like total asses as well. The script is smart and doesn't ever take easy ways out or make easy, dumb jokes.

The supporting cast of Saturnday Night Live players, Tim Meadows and Tina Fey (who also wrote the danged movie), both do an excellent job by completely underplaying their characters. They come off as real people as a consequence, and whenever things get a little outlandish they help it go down a little easier. Lindsay Lohan is belivable as the niave outsider as well as her undercover character of the "Plastic" bitch.

But besides all of that, the movie is just plain funny and fun. It works on every level it aims for, and so what if it doesn't aim to be more than a good teen comedy? It is a very good teen comedy, easily the best since Bring it On.

Best line of the movie: "Danny DeVito! I love your work!"

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