Mean Girls [Movie Musical] (2024) – Film Review

Twenty years ago, Mean Girls took the world by storm and became an undisputable and very quotable cult classic.

Now in 2024, Mean Girls returns to the big screen but as a movie musical, adapted from the stage production, that was adapted from the very film that became a phenomenon back in 2004. The musical movie however, directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., with its screenplay by Tina Fey, is far more niche than its original source.

Strangely, the film was practically promoted as a remake which was quite puzzling. I can’t imagine how confused many would be, attending only to find the characters (possibly unexpectedly) breaking into song. Understandably, not everyone is a fan of musicals, but trying to market to a completely different audience is very weird.

The film itself is even more bizarre. Filled with quotes from the original film, it feels like the new movie musical has just copied and pasted a template, and in a way, it has. Granted, there are many lines that would feel out of place not in a Mean Girls film. The original film and its quotable lines are iconic for a reason. But the new jokes land much better than its older counterparts, and you can’t help but wonder how true this movie is as a representation of the stage musical. Did they add new things just for the film? Or is this how the stage production really is?

Australia’s Angourie Rice plays the Lindsay Lohan famed character of Cady Heron. Unfortunately, her portrayal of the character isn’t nearly as likeable or convincing, nor does it even feel like the same character. Her singing especially is also really weak to the point where I struggled to understand what Rice was singing half the time. The same could be said for Reneé Rapp as Regina George. Considering that Rapp has also played the role on stage, it’s odd that her diction is very poor in the film. However, this may not be necessarily due to do Rapp’s vocal talents but may instead be due to the directional choice of having Rapp’s vocals auto tuned against her will.

On the other hand, the remaining ‘Plastics’ Gretchen and Karen played by Bebe Wood and Avantika weren’t difficult to understand at all. Although, as with the typical culling of songs to make an appealing cinematic timeframe, the inclusion of Gretchen’s solo ‘What’s Wrong With Me’ feels out of place, whereas Karen’s song ‘Sexy’ is the perfect transition to the Halloween party.

Cady’s ‘true’ new high school best friends Damian Hubbard and Janis ‘Imi’ike are played respectively by Jaquel Spivey and Auliʻi Cravalho, but the pair also double as the story’s narrators. Cavalho and Spivey are immensely vocally impressive. Every time they appeared on screen, I didn’t want them to leave. Sadly, Damien’s solo is omitted from the film, which leaves Cavalho to shine alone with Janis’ song ‘I’d Rather Be Me’.

Familiar faces Tina Fey and Tim Medows return to the Mean Girls franchise as their characters Ms. Norbury and Principal Duvall. Their substories however have been altered, so it feels like this whole 2024 Mean Girls film is some wacky alternate universe.

The most uncomfortable part about this film is that every song has been made to look like a musical video. While conceptually this may seem clever and fun at first, it gets old real quick and becomes extremely annoying. Like how the film was advertised, the execution and this directional choice made me wonder who exactly this film is for. Because as a theatre fan, I sure felt alienated. As a film fan, I felt confused. Why would I bother to see this when I can just rewatch the 2004 film instead?

Don’t get me wrong, I love musicals, especially movie musicals. Adapted movie musicals are meant to be a representation of a stage production to make the musical more accessible to a wider audience. While the songs alone in Mean Girls made me believe I would certainly enjoy seeing the musical live on stage at some point, I cannot say the same for this emotionally hollow and overstuffed mess of a movie. Admittedly, I am glad I saw it and gave it a chance, and I know it will sell well in cinemas purely on nostalgia alone. But after seeing it, I’d rather never see it again.

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