Rashida Jones and Elizabeth Banks/Photos © Rena Schild, Helga Esteb/Shutterstock
Welcome to Word & Fim’s Casting Call, where we exercise our creative muscles by focusing our attention on extraordinary characters from exceptional books – either fiction or nonfiction – and make the case for how we’d cast those roles if given the chance. Note that, here at Word & Film, we’re not casting directors, nor are we producers, agents, or anyone else who has any say in how a film will be cast; we’re simply ardent fans of books and movies who can’t help ourselves from such musings.
Back in 2004, “Mean Girls,” the Tina Fey-penned hit comedy, helped launch the careers of Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Fey herself (and for one brief, beautiful moment made Lindsay Lohan America’s sweetheart). It also taught us a lot about the rules that govern the mean streets of girl world. We learned: 1) “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it,” 2) “Calling somebody else fat won’t make you any skinnier,” and, of course, 3) “Ex-boyfriends are off limits to friends. That’s just, like, the rules of feminism.”
But now, almost ten years later, we’re all older, more mature, and ready to play by a different rulebook. Lucky for us, New Line Cinema has announced plans to move forward with “Mean Moms,” an adaptation of Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads by Rosalind Wiseman, the scribe whose Queen Bees and Wannabes inspired “Mean Girls.” Plot details are scarce, but according to Deadline, the film, which will be helmed by SNL director Beth McCarthy-Miller, tells the story of “a happily married mother of two [who] moves from small-town America to the high-class suburbs and is faced with confronting the cutthroat world of competitive parenting.”
The new film’s not a sequel, so we’re unlikely to see queen bee Regina (played by McAdams) wheeling a $1000 stroller and proclaiming to her daughters, “Get in bitches, we’re going to the playground.” But Wiseman’s parenting guide deals with much of the same bullying and clique clannishness explored in the original -- for example, what to do when you’re pressured into joining an umpteenth PTA committee or how to handle it when your kid’s not invited to the birthday party of the season.
And so, using “Mean Girls” as our guide, we thought we’d play a little round of Casting Call to offer our take on which actresses we’d most like to see go Mommy Meanest.
In the Lindsay Lohan role, as the country mouse mom, we nominate Rashida Jones. Since 2009, she’s made small-town simplicity sing as the affable, ever-so-slightly sad sack Ann Perkins on “Parks and Recreation,” and we know she could bring a similar funny, endearing (never cloying) naïveté to the world of ruthless mommying. Plus in “Celeste & Jesse Forever” (which she also penned), Jones showed us her frantic, neurotic big-city side, giving us a glimpse of where this fish-out-of-water character would go once she learns to swim.
As our heroine’s frenemy, the Queen Bee Mom, we’d love to see Elizabeth Banks, who we know can go full tilt with appearance-obsessed mania thanks to her gonzo turn as Effie Trinket in “The Hunger Games.” And she’s also done plenty of slightly subtler, but no less amusing, mean girl roles: her Emmy-nominated appearances on “30 Rock” where she played Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin) driven girlfriend-wife Avery Jessup; the barbecue-covered hottie Lindsay, who shows no compunction in making out with her fellow counselor’s boyfriend, in the cult classic “Wet Hot American Summer.”
Kristen Wiig is our gal for Banks’s right-hand mom. In “Mean Girls,” Lacy Chabert played Gretchen Wieners, Regina’s lieutenant in nastiness, who’s sitting on so many secrets, it makes her hair big. Wiig has a similar tightly wound, buzzing energy that we’re sure could stir up trouble in the PTA. And while she makes us laugh in nearly everything she does, her recent turn as young Lucille Bluth in the “Arrested Development” reboot proves that she can nail bored upper-class disdain.
“Mean Moms” wouldn’t be complete without its own take on the Karen character (Amanda Seyfried), a girl so dumb she thinks her chest can predict (with about thirty-percent accuracy) when it’s already raining. She doesn’t mean to be mean, she just doesn’t know any better. If you upped the dumb dial on Kelly Kapoor, Mindy Kaling’s character on “The Office,” she’d be just about right -- and we can certainly imagine Kaling fuming with plenty of hilarious jealous spite as another mom’s daughter gets picked as captain of the soccer team or is cast as the Turkey in the third-grade Thanksgiving Pageant. But an equally appealing option is Isla Fisher, who stole the show as Katie, a ditzy, drug-addled bridesmaid in “Bachelorette” (based on the play by Leslye Headland). She says she was attracted to the role because “from a comedic stance, she’s just a classic fish out of water, overconfident dumb dumb, who when you’re improvising like that … is very freeing.” We’d love to give her the chance to dip into the dumb dumb zone for another round.
Of course, every mean mom in training needs confidantes, and using the sidekicks from “Mean Girls” as our model, for the Damian role, we suggest Eric Stonestreet, who does the propeller parent/doting dad thing to hilarious results on “Modern Family.” And while we’d originally thought of her for the Queen Bee Mom character (she did play the cattiest of the catty as the voice of “Gossip Girl” herself), we’d love to see Kristen Bell continue to stretch her comic chops playing against type as an alterna-mom (maybe of the Alicia Silverstone variety) in the Janis-type role.
And in case there’s room in the cast for a few other malevolent matriarchs, we’d also love to see Portia de Rossi, Octavia Spencer, Sofia Vergara, and Melissa McCarthy get in on the action. Things could get ugly and pretty hilarious.