Mean Girls (2024)

Mean Girls Review

Mean Girls (2024)

Since its release twenty years ago, the 2004 teen comedy “Mean Girls,” written by Tina Fey and based on Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 book Queen Bees and Wannabes has become a millennial cult classic. Although I was within the target age group for this movie—I was a high school senior when it came out—I have never really liked it that much. Instead, the original film leans heavily on sassy retorts and famous actors Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, and Amanda Seyfried who are perfect as those four—but the humor is marred by racially insensitive jokes and other problematic moments that need to be forgotten already about from the mid-2000s. Thankfully though, this latest version of Mean Girls directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. adapts the 2018 Broadway musical adaptation of the 2004 film in a refreshing way that reflects how Zoomers think.

Raised in Kenya via homeschooling from her mother (Jenna Fischer), who is a biologist, Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) starts her junior year at public school where she must learn to navigate through various cliques for the first time ever. The earlier movie simply referred to Africa but this version clarifies Ms. Heron’s research location as Kenya which marks an improvement at least with respect to starting off weakly set up, although not necessarily creaky. In addition, there were many unsuccessful attempts at using Cady’s background as comedy.

Cady finds herself having a tougher day at school than she imagined until art freaks Janis ‘Imi’ike (an awesome Auliʻi Cravalho) and Damian Hubbard (a funny Jaquel Spivey) become her friends and show her how things work around here. The duo narrate using songs while occasionally introducing themselves directly towards their audience with their voice. Once again, the different cliques are explained in specific terms (horny band geeks, burnouts etc.) without racial stereotypes like those that pervaded the earlier picture.

Everyone gets hypnotized by Regina George (a breakthrough Reneé Rapp), who enters the cafeteria carrying a tray with cheese fries and time seems to stop dead right then. Cady gets attracted to Regina immediately. Rapp dominates the screen with her towering frame. The directors capture her commanding presence through a mixture of wide shots that show the waves she leaves behind as she moves through the student body but also through close-ups as Rapp’s expressive face exudes nothing but pure allure.

The Plastics include an endearing Bebe Wood as Gretchen Wieners who has played the same role in “Love, Victor.” For example, one of Gretchen’s songs addresses body image and self-esteem very effectively. If you’ve ever had a toxic best friend this will hit hard. Karen is portrayed by Avantika as “the dumbest girl you’ll ever meet.” A new comer playing a challenging role in many ways, Seyfried (in her film debut) nailed Karen’s airheadedness perfectly like Marilyn Monroe did with relative ease during her time in Hollywood. However, Avantika often acts overeagerly and it is all clear how much effort is involved in being dumb for funniest possible effect by far too many times.

The plot comes into full swing when Regina’s plaything is replaced by Cady who she invites to lunch with the Plastics. There’s a dark past between Regina and Janis that Cady doesn’t know about, which includes their friendship in middle school that went sour. The plot becomes much clearer in this version of the story because there are now more well developed details regarding this background, making it easier for readers to understand why Janis’ plot was so evil.

And then things get complicated because Cady had a crush on her classmate Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney) from calculus (he also has been along with “The Summer I Turned Pretty” successfully cornering the market on teenage love triangles). Janis convinces Cady to befriend Regina so as to take revenge while at the same time helping herself find love. But everything goes wrong and soon enough, Cady finds herself caught up in popularity forgetting her own personality and ethics.

From that point onwards, the new film remixed plot beats and character moments from original film through both a musical and social media lenses. In no time, they became popular on twitter just like trending topics rise and fall. And videos were made of them using cell phones leading to thousands of reaction vids. She is nothing one minute; next thing you know she has one million views and likes. While visually arresting, these sequences often serve as shortcuts indicating changes in Cady’s behavior rather than teasing them out during dialogue.

Similarly, most songs are used as an outlet for emotions by characters according to musical tradition. None of these pieces are especiallt catchy but “What’s Wrong with Me?” by Gretchen Weiner stands out because of its poignancy while there is also “I’d Rather Be Me,” a powerful rock anthem by Janis addressing self-worth issues. Even if songs aren’t good, they possess visual flair. “Revenge Party” performed by Damian and Janis would be a prime example of a Gen-Z instagram aesthetic with its rainbow hallway and cotton candy clouds. Similarly, Regina’s dark dirge “Someone Gets Hurt” evokes the glitter-infused, lowlight misery of something like “Euphoria.”

The Cady character in this film is not as dynamic as the one played by Lindsay Lohan who was at her best in that movie however Angourie Rice fails to quite pull it off the same way.Cravalho and Rapp are both stronger performers than Rice is though, with much more obvious inherent star power. This musical doesn’t completely fail just because Cady isn’t great since it’s more of an ensemble piece than if she were the center of everything.

This movie ultimately feels like a bitter rant against being mean for no good reason and about giving advice to kids who are okay being themselves. This time around Fey and co. actually made fetch happen.

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