‘Mean Girls 2’: More than twice as nasty as the orig­i­nal

The Washington Post Sunday - - TV -

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 few­gen­uine, 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 sameNorth ShoreHigh 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 (Ma­iaraWalsh). 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 (ClaireHolt), 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 whyMandi 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 an­tibul­ly­ing 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 toDVD 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.

AN­NETTE BROWN/ PARA­MOUNT PIC­TURES/ABC FAM­ILY

‘MEAN’: Not a guilty plea­sure.

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