Directed by Mark S Waters, starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, Tina Fey, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Franzese, Jonathan Bennett and Tim Meadows.

If complaints about the quality of kids' films grow by the year, then the stories pitched at teenagers are even worse. Either too sweet or too stupid, and with the morals usually conveyed with the subtlety of a stomach pump, why can't a film be as smart and as bitchy as the way you remember school? 'Mean Girls' proves that it can be done.

Home tutored by her zoologist parents in Africa, maths genius Cady Heron (Lohan) has her first day of school in the US at 16. With even seating arrangements proving difficult, there's no hope for her when it comes to understanding social convention and so Cady ends up pals with outcasts Janis (Fey) and Justin (Franzese). That is until she attracts the attention of 'The Plastics', the teen royalty led by Regina George (McAdams), who reckon the newcomer has the potential to become an It girl.

What looks like another excuse for outfits, bad acting, a boy with too many teeth and a pop punk soundtrack turns out far funnier and cutting. At its best, 'Mean Girls' plays like a junior version of 'Heathers' and the rest of the time it's funnier than most sitcoms. With lines as good as "If you're from Africa, why are you white?" and "I have a fifth sense, it's like ESPN or something" scattered throughout, writer-actor Tina Fey gets the cool-but-dumb tone of this teen revenge movie just right and makes sure the characters don't end up covered in treacle. Of course, there's a message about being yourself and the thin line between cool and outcast, but it's wrapped up so well that you smile won't be through gritted teeth.

Kind of makes you wish you were back at school. Kind of.

Harry Guerin