"Jawbreaker" was better the first time it was released. Of course, it was called "Heathers" back then.

Not to say that this black comedy is a rip-off of that 1989 cult hit, but the resemblances between the two are blatant, right down to the jabs at high school popularity and beauty queens, as well as the murderous plotline.

Of course, there are references to other movies, including "Carrie," "Rock 'n' Roll High School" and even "Pygmalion" (shades of "She's All That!"). And a deliciously wicked turn by Rose McGowan ensures that the film is at least a cut above the current crop of teen-oriented films.

McGowan stars as Courtney Shane, who heads the most powerful clique at Reagan High School. Courtney and her best friends, Julie (Rebecca Gayheart) and Marcie (Julie Benz), kidnap another clique member (Charlotte Rolden) as a birthday prank.

Unfortunately, the kidnapping goes hideously awry when Liz chokes to death (on the confection that gives the film its name). But rather than report their misdeed, the three agree to cover up the crime — by making it look like a sexual assault.

To their horror, an unpopular student named Fern Mayo (Judy Evans Greer) overhears them discussing their plans. But Courtney has an answer for everything and agrees to make Fern over as Vylette and add her to the clique.

But the sudden popularity goes to the girl's head, and the death weighs heavily on Julie, who becomes estranged from her former friends. Worse, a pesky female detective (Pam Grier) has been poking around, asking some very pointed questions.

It's not a bad idea for a movie — it's just too similar to its inspirations. Also, first-time writer/director Darren Stein goes for too many easy laughs, and some of his more high-minded material is too obscure for the target audience (obviously teens).

There are also too many distracting cameo appearances, including '70s icons Jeff Conaway and P.J. Soles, as well as musician Brian Warner (a k a Marilyn Manson, McGowan's current squeeze).

But McGowan does have a lot of fun in her showcase role. Also, Gayheart is surprisingly likable (given her terrible performance in "Urban Legend"), and Greer's transformation from geek to chic is much more believable than the one in "She's All That."

"Jawbreaker" is rated R for profanity, vulgar sexual references and gestures, as well as a sexually suggestive sight gag, simulated sex, violent shoving and restraint and some veiled female nudity.