by Emily Exton
Like Gretchen Weiners and her attempts at making British slang popular stateside, we should all just stop trying to replicate the genius of "Mean Girls," because let’s face it: it's never going to happen. Creating a sequel that's at all close to Tina Fey's brilliantly funny 2004 film is a tall order for anyone to accomplish, and this direct-to-DVD flick, which premiered last night on ABC Family, will make you pine for pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan like Karen Smith pines for Seth Mosakowski (What? He’s a good kisser!).
Cady Heron (Lindsay) warned any younger girls who dared to disturb the social peace she had established at the end of the film, yet of course mean girls are everywhere, and every once and awhile comes a heroine who sets out to defy the preexisting social order. In the newest installment, said heroine is Jo Mitchell (Meaghan Martin), a tomboy who's been forced to move around with her NASCAR mechanic father for most of her life, landing at North Shore on what is supposed to be a "pit stop" (that’s race car humor for you) before college at Carnegie Mellon. Jo is not so much clueless to the politics of high school as she is opposed to them, as seen by the way she breaks conventional rules by riding a Vespa, excelling at shop class and wearing (temporary) blue and pink streaks in her hair. Radical! And unlike fresh-faced Cady Heron, who never went to a real school and thus never understood the strategic importance of holiday cards, Jo is outspoken and unafraid to reveal her utter disdain for the drama of Girl World.
Initially, Jo’s looks and feisty personality catch Queen Bee Mandi’s (Maiara Walsh) eye, but when she dares to turn down the invitation to hang with the plastics over non-fat, no sugar, raspberry Frappuccinos, North Shore's benevolent dictator makes it a personal mission to take the new girl down. Fueled by longstanding jealousy issues stemming from a disappointingly sized bouncy castle, Mandi carries out a series of severely cruel pranks, including messing with Jo’s father’s business and jeopardizing her shot at getting into college, in attempts to reassert herself as North Shore’s No. 1.
Instead of going undercover as part of a larger sociological experiment to take down North Shore’s ruling clique, what unfolds is a messy and confusing battle between The Plastics and newly formed Anti-Plastics. And it’s difficult to know who to root for. Jo is spunky and independent, yes, but also quick to scoff at most of what makes high school go round, which is easy for someone who changes schools twice a year. "Mean Girls" worked so well because the characters were honest portrayals of high schoolers: Naive Cady was quickly introduced to the social politics of high school, and fell prey to the allure of popularity. Regina George was a total biatch, yet you still felt a little bad for her after she got hit by that bus. In the follow up, Mandi's mean streak runs deep, and there isn't a good enough explanation as to why, or why we should care.
I would have liked to see "Mean Girls 2" take the most lovable aspects of its predecessor and make them better, or at least more up to date (what about Internet bullying? Instead of a Burn Book, North Shore’s social website is briefly alluded to, but it feels like a missed opportunity). It all feels incredibly dated, relying on more than one bathroom joke, with little to no lines worthy of a modest chuckle, let alone incorporating into your daily speech.
Unlike the hilarious adult caricatures (loving but clueless parents, a mom who desperately tries to be cool and borderline inappropriate gym coaches), the authority figures in "Mean Girls 2" are utterly nonexistent, save for Tim Meadows (the only familiar face from the original), who returns as North Shore’s Principal Duvall. This time his carpal tunnel has fully healed, but his subtle dry humor is perhaps the only redeeming quality of the film. It is that subtlety that made "Mean Girls" so successful. Unlike the naturally pretty, cool, funny girl at school, "Mean Girls 2" is the slightly pathetic social climber who is wearing the flashiest new accessory in hopes of being seen by the popular clique and pulled out from the dregs of the cafeteria. Maybe it’s unfair to compare this to the original, which set the bar for satirical takes on teenage life, as well as genuine comedy, but if you're bold enough to market yourself as "Mean Girls," you best come prepared. And unlike Regina George, we’ll tell it to you straight: that was one of the ugliest effing sequels we’ve ever seen.
Did you like "Mean Girls 2," or did the sequel just make you miss the original?