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Mean Girls (2024)

This musical adaptation of the 2000s classic is surprisingly winning



It’s easy to be cynical seeing all the remakes, sequels, and reboots that flood the film market. However, amongst the craze of forgettable IP-milking, there are worthwhile gems, from the magical Spielberg West Side Story (2021) to the transporting adaptation of Dune (2021). The latest to hit our screens with a winning reimagining is Mean Girls (2024).

 

Mean Girls is an adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical, which itself is an adaptation of the 2004 classic high school comedy of the same name. We follow Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) as she moves from a homeschooled nomadic lifestyle in Kenya, to the American suburbs. There she discovers the cutthroat high school world.

 

This version of Mean Girls is adapted again by Tina Fey who returns alongside Tim Meadows from the original film. Mean Girls is directed by first-time directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr, who bring about a bold clarity to their visual style, delivering an immersive musical adaptation that at no point feels constrained. Jayne and Perez Jr. revel in long tracking shots, spinning camera moves, and witty transitions. They take advantage of the cinematic medium by playing around with editing, montaging, and screen ratios to deliver a zippy pace.

 

The 2004 version of Mean Girls became such a generational classic that it felt unwise to try and revisit. This 2024 version never approaches the irresistible magnetism that the original had, largely due to the surprise factor being taken away, but also to comedic moments being tamer compared to the blazing daring of the original. Yet, this musical version finds some creative new flavors to play around with. The film makes its own space and world for you to revel in nostalgia and admire the creative ambition of the filmmakers and young cast.

 

Just as with the first film, this version of Mean Girls brings in talented young actors who are poised for breakouts. Auli’i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey are charming as Janis and Damian, while Bebe Wood and Avantika are convincing if not as memorable Plastic sidekicks to Regina George as Amanda Seyfried and Lacey Chabert in the original. Angourie Rice has been showcasing incredible zeal ever since The Nice Guys(2016), she’s since appeared in the likes of Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled (2017) and Tom Holland’s trilogy of Spider-Man movies. However, taking on the lead role in Mean Girls, Rice buckles under the weight of the iconic lines and beats. Her singing, while strong, is belittled when paired with the supporting cast that are Broadway-trained actors. In a bid of playing the initial timidity of the character, Rice dilutes the audience accessibility to her character and alienates the audience surrogacy point. However, Cady was never the most interesting character in Mean Girls, that honor went to Regina George, indelibly incarnated by Rachel McAdams in the original film. To follow in McAdams’ footsteps would truly be terrifying, yet Renee Rapp bursts onto the scene with such confidence, skill, and magnetic aura, that she compellingly makes the role her own. This is aided with Rapp having some of the catchier songs, which add up to make this a memorable breakout role – this is her first feature film role.

 

In the end, this musical version of Mean Girls is a fun complement to the original, its reimagining and bold interpretations work much the way a new adaptation of Shakespeare tells the same story  with a twist. The daring filmmaking, talented young cast, and expertly staged musical numbers overcome the worn and recycled narrative where the stilted adaptive elements suffered more.

7.5/10

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About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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