Tina Fey, the first female head writer in the history of Saturday Night Live, is a live wire: a sexy “Weekend Update” funny girl who rarely sends out a joke without a sting in its tail. Now Fey brings her sass as a writer and actress to Mean Girls, a satire of high school bitchery that plays like Clueless meets Heathers. Lindsay Lohan, who in every prom-fixated movie that Hilary Duff doesn’t grab first, is pert perfection as Cady, a junior who has missed a lot. Her parents have home-schooled her in the African bush. So when Cady enters the blackboard jungle of Chicago’s North Shore High, she sees things in terms of savage animal behavior. She finds shelter with the outsiders: Damien (Daniel Franzese), who’s been called “too gay to function,” and Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan), who falls into the same funk her namesake did at seventeen. Damien and Janis persuade naive Cady to infiltrate the Plastics, the hottie herd led by Regina (the acid-tongued Rachel McAdams), with Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) and Karen (Amanda Seyfried) as her conniving bitches-in-waiting.
Sabotage is planned, then Cady decides she likes being cool. Adapting Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes, Fey reveals a keen ear for the intricacies of the insult. And the cast, including a hilarious Fey as a bumbling math teacher, tears into the wicked fun. The plot is flimsy, but director Mark Waters (Freaky Friday) trusts Fey’s tart dialogue to carry the day. Wise man. Fey subverts formula to find comic gold. She’s a brash new voice in movie comedy. Boy, do we need her now.