Plastic is forever.
Mean Girls is a 2024 musical teen comedy film directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., written by Tina Fey, produced by Broadway Video and Little Stranger, and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is based off of the 2018 Broadway musical of the same name. The film stars Angourie Rice and Reneé Rapp. This is the third film in the Mean Girls franchise. It was preceded by Mean Girls 2.
"On Wednesdays, we wear pink." - Karen Shetty
Teenager Cady Heron has been homeschooled in Africa her entire life. When her mom gets a job in Evanston, Illinois, Cady is moved into high school for the first time. There, she immediately is introduced to the social cliques of North Shore High, including the Plastics, a group of popular girls led by the cruel queen bee, Regina George.
Before we get into my review of this movie, I need to provide some context on my experience with Mean Girls.
I had never seen the original up until last spring. And as soon as I saw it, I fell in love with it. Mean Girls is, for my money, the best high school movie of all time. I absolutely adore the original. I have never seen the Broadway musical, but I have listened to the music, and I was a fan. Naturally, I was excited for this movie, though I always have reservations when they decide to remake a classic.
And I am happy to report that this new version is good. The best thing about this Mean Girls is that it is different. It's a musical. It takes place in 2024, not 2004, and that's a big difference when it comes to high school. Every time that this movie is different, it works really well. It is a Mean Girls remake, obviously, but there's a good amount of changes that I did not see coming. Each character has things about them that are slightly different. There are tiny changes to the story that make it interesting. It sticks out as different enough from the original to make it feel like it's own thing while not deviating too much from the core of Mean Girls.
And, while it does stand out as being slightly different, it also has tons of winks and nods to the original. All of the classic, quotable lines from Mean Girls are in here, and each one will put a smile on your face. The film has references and cameos that will get Mean Girls fans excited. It perfectly honors the original while also being its own thing.
One of the best things about the original Mean Girls are the performances. Rachel McAdams and Lindsay Lohan became stars because of that film, so the actors in this film had big shoes to fill. And, while the performances are probably not as good as McAdams and Lohan in the original, they still manage to stand out as fun and funny. Reneé Rapp brings a nice modern twist to Regina George that makes her different enough from McAdams while still having that cruel, mean charm that makes Regina iconic. Auli'i Cravalho (who plays Janis) is also one of the biggest standouts here. She has a completely different energy than Lizzy Caplan in the original, but it works entirely. Finally, I think Jaquel Spivey (Damian) and Avantika (Karen) are great. They don't outdo Daniel Franzese and Amanda Seyfried, but they definitely do live up to those performances.
One of the things I was most nervous about going into this movie was whether or not it would be funny. Obviously, the original is one of the funniest movies ever made, so I wasn't sure if this film would just lean on the comedy of the original for its laughs. Tina Fey still wrote this movie, though, and she brings fresh, updated jokes that are completely different from the original and still incredibly funny.
I also liked the direction in this movie. I know I'm comparing everything to the original, but that's inevitable - the direction in the original is great. Utilizing voiceover and breaking the fourth wall is one of the things that makes Mean Girls so creative and fun. This version does not use voiceover or really break the fourth wall, but it does still use those elements by including TikTok and Instagram. There's also a surprising amount of filmmaking skill behind the camera. There was a whole musical number that was filmed with a long take, which I thought was super cool. I have never heard of either of these directors, so I didn't expect much from them, but they surprised.
I think the biggest problem with this iteration of Mean Girls is, unfortunately, Angourie Rice. Rice plays Cady in this film, and she is, by far, the weakest aspect of the film. She gives this very quiet, awkward performance that has none of the charm or likability that Lindsay Lohan's Cady had. When she starts becoming more confident and more plastic, she still maintains the quiet awkwardness, and it makes it seem like she didn't know the character that she was playing. She was also a really bad singer, and it brought a bunch of the musical numbers down for me.
Speaking of the musical numbers...I'm not sure how I feel about them. Some of them are really good. But some of them are really, really weird. First of all, they cut a few songs from the musical, which confused me. I understand having to cut songs because they don't want a 150-minute Mean Girls remake, but the songs they cut are great. They kept some of the weakest songs from the musical and got rid of some of the best songs.
Second of all, the way that some of these are shot and performed are strange. Revenge Party, Apex Predator, and Someone Gets Hurt feel like music videos inside of a movie. They get really psychedelic and creepy. Someone Gets Hurt gets weirdly sexual and uncomfortable out of nowhere. Apex Predator takes the jungle fantasies from the original and plays them out for an entire song, which I don't think worked. And Revenge Party takes the best song from the musical and turns it into this child-like nightmare that made me very uneasy. I don't know. It was really weird.
And, as much as I had fun with this movie, I don't think we needed it. Mean Girls is a classic. It's a beloved 2000s high school film. It makes sense for it to be a Broadway musical, but I don't think we needed a film adaptation of that musical, because then it just becomes a slightly watered down version of Mean Girls with musical numbers that sometimes feel like acid trips. Because they need space for the musical numbers, they do cut out a few of the iconic moments from the original that make it as great as it as. And that made me realize that no one was really asking for this movie.
Final Thoughts and Score
You can't go wrong with Mean Girls, so this film is fun. It is different enough from the original while having plenty of homages, but I still don't think we ever needed a remake, especially with how weird the musical numbers are.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 9+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 9/10
Directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr.
Rated PG-13 for language, sexual content, disturbing themes and images, thematic elements
Released on January 12, 2024
1 hour and 52 minutes
Angourie Rice as Cady Heron
Reneé Rapp as Regina George
Auli'i Cravalho as Janis 'Imi'ike
Christopher Briney as Aaron Samuels
Jaquel Spivey as Damian Hubbard
Bebe Wood as Gretchen Wieners
Avantika as Karen Shetty
Tina Fey as Sharon Norbury
Tim Meadows as Ron Duvall
Jenna Fischer as Ms. Heron
Busy Philipps as Mrs. George
Jon Hamm as Coach Carr
Mahi Alam as Kevin Ganatra
Brian Altemus as Shane Oman
John El-Jor as Jason Weems
Ashley Park as Madame Park
Connor Ratliff as Mr. Rapp