Mean Girls Review: A Totally Fetch Musical

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Get in, losers. 20 years after the original movie came out, Mean Girls is returning to the big screen. Tina Fey’s iconic 2004 teen movie was adapted into a Broadway musical and is now being re-adapted back into a musical movie. Once again, we have a new student, Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) from Africa, who finds herself becoming friends with an elite group of popular girls named the Plastics, led by Regina George (Reneé Rapp). But when Cady falls for Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), all hell breaks loose in a surprisingly wonderful movie that updates a classic tale for modern times.

Whenever Hollywood remakes a classic movie, an audience member will have one question in their minds: why? To be more specific, why would I watch this new movie when I can go to the original? Disney’s live-action remakes are almost always inferior to their original animated films. And while the new Mean Girls movie does not capture the lightning in a bottle that the first movie did, it offers something fun for musical lovers. It’s hard to re-adapt something as universally loved as that original Lindsay Lohan film, and that’s why this movie generally plays it safe.

We return to North Shore High School through the lens of directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. Although this movie tells the same story as the original Mean Girls, it is set in 2024 with its TikTok aesthetic. There are many different aspect ratios used throughout the film, and a surprising amount of the film features montages in the 9:16 vertical video. It’s a fun idea used to establish the school population’s reactions and opinions towards the events of the story. The issue is that the community does not feel as pronounced as it did in the original, with the minor characters failing to leave much of an impact.

Let’s talk about the marketing for this movie, and it all starts with that 2004 movie. By the time the original Mean Girls came out, Lindsay Lohan was an established star with her roles in The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday. Therefore, she was front and center of the posters. Now, we have Rice stepping into Lohan’s ginormous shoes. Filling in the role of Cady Heron isn’t an easy task, but Rice is a solid choice, having proven herself in The Nice Guys, Honor Society, and the new Spider-Man trilogy. But Rice is hardly the biggest part of the marketing of this movie. She gives an acceptable, enjoyable performance as Cady, and her singing is adequate, but she lacks the IT factor that Lohan brought to the role.

So, who is the face of the 2024 Mean Girls? Look no further than Reneé Rapp, who first played Regina George in the Broadway musical. She reprises her role here after launching a successful music career and a prominent role in The Sex Lives of College Girls. The only shoes bigger to fill than Lohan as Cady is Rachel McAdams as the infamous Regina. Rapp slips those shoes on perfectly. She is the reason people will want to watch this movie. Even though Regina is the antagonist of the movie and not the main character, Rapp does have the IT factor that this role needs. She plays Regina with swagger, confidence, and a surprising amount of humor towards the end. That, coupled with her existing fame, catapults her to being front and center of nearly every poster for this rendition.

Another fascinating aspect of the marketing is how well it hides the fact that this movie is a musical. Some audience members reportedly did not know it would be a musical till they had already sat in their seats and the movie started playing. Why? The trailers feature very little of the characters singing and dancing. The shots are brief, and that first trailer features Olivia Rodrigo’s music instead of this stacked musical soundtrack. It seems as if studios are now bait-and-switching audiences to see their musical movies, which is a shame because the music in this movie can be pretty good.

This is where some audiences might get turned off. Some viewers hate musicals and will groan every time the characters break out into song and dance during this movie. Some viewers are die-hard fans of the Mean Girls Broadway musical and will be disappointed that 14 songs were cut from the stage show. They may also be disappointed by a few of the renditions in this film, particularly with Rice. I went in as a lover of musicals who has never seen the Broadway show. Therefore, I dug the way the musical sequences are helmed here. The lighting is effectively dramatic, and there are a few numbers that feature long, extended tracking shots whipping through the school hallways, allowing the choreography to take shape. “Sexy” and “World Burn” are two highlights from the film.

Writer Tina Fey knew that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Like the 2004 movie, she writes the script for this one. I can only imagine the déjá vu Fey and Tim Meadows must have felt stepping back into their respective roles as Ms. Norbury and Principal Duvall, especially during scenes where their dialogue is verbatim from the original. A large amount of this movie is copy-and-pasted. When you have source material so famous, you’re kind of waiting for lines like “Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.” It adds so many songs to the movie that when it comes to the dialogue, it was mainly just replaying the hits. It’s very faithful and respectful to the source material, even down to the costumes during some scenes.

Mean Girls (2024) is a particularly engaging watch because you’re seeing something so familiar yet so different. The narration in Cady’s head is taken out of this adaptation because all those messages can be replaced with music. Auliʻi Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey are pitch-perfect in their interpretations of Janice and Damian. Janice’s portrayal and backstory are more progressive while containing all the firepower the character needs. Damian is as hilarious as ever in this movie, and Spivey really chews this role up, particularly in a scene where the character sings on stage.

One major issue the movie has is that, unlike the original, it does not wrap up anyone’s character arcs very well besides Cady. The ending of the first movie left us with satisfying notes for all of the Plastics and for the whole high school community. The supporting characters here don’t get the resolution they should have had, and the climactic scene works less as a result. Also, a few jokes don’t land the way they did in the original, such as Mrs. George’s antics, which are played out for too long. Mean Girls (2024) is rough around the edges, but it’s a story that reminds you why teen movies can be really fun, and in this case, totally fetch.

SCORE: 7/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.

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