The Clique (2008)

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Having moved six times before graduating high school, this reviewer definitely knows what it's like to be "the new girl" in school. Whether it was making an embarrassing faux pas while trying to figure out the new slang or what was "in" from one week to the next such as (and I'm dating myself) spiral permed bangs, rolled up jeans, snap bracelets, Esprit bags, or Francois Girbuad jeans, after viewing The Clique, I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be born at the tail end of Generation X.

With our fast-paced society and worldly children, it seems that twelve is the new sixteen and sixteen is the new twenty-five. While I was concerned with where to eat lunch or who to sit on the bus with, it seems like today's tweens and teens have it a whole lot tougher as the bullying doesn't stop when you drop your books off on your kitchen table. Now with text and instant messages, camera phones, endless e-mails, and social networking sites like MySpace-- it's no longer just the kids with pocket protectors that are into gadgets as now anyone with a keyboard and a grudge can make a classmate's life a living hell from a safe distance, sometimes anonymously making rushed judgments and then forwarding their thoughts onward to the entire school within seconds.

And although the tween fashionista girls that make up The Clique or rather "The Pretty Committee," rocking the hallways as if they were runways of their private, exclusive, Octavian Country Day girls only middle school relish in cruelty, they aren't playing with quite as dangerous of stakes we see every Monday night on the CW in the addictive hit, Gossip Girl. However, there are many similarities between the works as again the beautiful and wealthy characters use the outsiders and new kids for target practice to unleash their own angst and far more intriguingly, both Gossip and Clique were adapted from a popular young adult series of books.

Based on Lisi Harrison's Clique books which have-- much like The Babysitter Club in my generation-- spun off into all different directions with new adventures and sub-series, this high-quality straight-to-DVD adaptation by screenwriter Liz Tigelaar, director Michael Lembeck and executive producer Tyra Banks taps right into its teen friendly market with its bright, fun cinematography and underlying themes of friendship that also were explored in the superior adaptations of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book series (again from Warner Brothers).

Following their recent release of Traveling Pants 2 and another girl-power book turned WB film Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, it's been a wonderful year for Warner Brothers in ensuring that opposed to the young male demographic most studios incessantly tap into at the exclusion of other viewers, they're actively seeking out good material for young women, from books by women and often made by women as well.

Despite this, initially, The Clique begins in a slightly over-the-top fashion as our main character and quintessential drama queen, Massie Block is told that she's unable to attend a hip party and her Sex and the City: The Junior Version tantrum is a bit too much as she manipulates the rest of her clique into avoiding the same event with a series of catty lies. However, the movie soon finds its stride when Pretty Committee leader Massie meets the girl who will become her arch nemesis-- Claire Lyons.

Wholesome and pleasant-- Claire, who arrives with her obnoxious little brother and parents to stay with Massie's family while her father settles into his new job-- is the polar opposite of the Queen Bee. Friendly, generous, and smart, Claire's presence annoys Massie from the start mostly on appearance alone as instead of a home with wealth, privilege and a never-ending allowance via her American Express card to purchase couture, she dresses like (gasp) a typical middle class teenager whose family is on a budget.

While grudgingly, Massie realizes she has to share the family chauffeur with the new girl to attend school with her, right from the start she draws a line between the clique and Claire, kicking her to the back of the car and with repeated rudeness delivering lines like "Did I invite you to my BBQ? Then why are you all up in my grill?" Along with the other three girls-- the redheaded Dylan whose mother keeps insisting she lose weight to go from a size six to a four, the obsessively academic Kristen and "ready for the runway" label obsessed Alicia-- Massie decides to make Claire's life a living hell, especially when she sees her talking to a boy that she likes as well.

When Claire finally has enough and decides to fight back-- similar to the clever Tina Fey penned and witty Lindsay Lohan comedy Mean Girls-- she begins to give Massie a run for her money, until realizing that when she stoops to the other girl's level, she doesn't like the reflection staring back at her in the mirror. While of course the the girls in the film are a bit hard to relate to in real life given their enormous privilege and wardrobe, the underlying themes and situation of a new girl trying to break into a group of friends is something with which anyone can relate.

Definitely a film that will appeal to the books' fans as an above average straight-to-DVD offering sure to reward Harrison's supportive readers-- the disc which provides the option to view the film in either wide or full-screen (along with a special code allowing purchasers to download a digital copy to their computer), also serves up some fun special features that go behind the scenes with the stars, offers a great featurette that focuses exclusively on fashion and celebrates the cast's appreciation for the national bestselling books as well.

Of course, it's a bit of a forgettable confection on the surface and it doesn't delve into issues the way other Warner Brothers films made for girls this year did but this being said, it's a great companion piece to the studios' other releases and should provide much comfort to all the "new girls" out there who have to deal with their school's hopefully Massie-less version of The Pretty Committee.