'Mean Girls' review: Musical spin on beloved comedy is so fetch
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
20 years removed from when Regina George and her posse “The Plastics” took over the cultural zeitgeist where on Wednesdays you must wear pink and October 3rd is a day that lives in infamy, “Mean Girls” certainly felt like the right movie at the right time. It helped catapult Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfriend into overnight stardom and has found a new legion of followers in the digital age thanks to TikTok and a musical version. Ironically, it’s that iteration that’s been adapted for 2024 audiences by original scribe Tina Fey despite the trailers and various marketing materials going out of there way (sans one musical note in the logo) to mask it is, in fact, a musical rendering of the iconic 2004 comedy.
It’s a weird decision considering this modern take isn’t the disaster you’d assume it to be. The actual “Mean Girls” musical wasn’t all that memorable to begin with, though it’s catchy enough (not to mention it has brand recognition) to skirt on goodwill. Much of that same mentality exists in this “Mean Girls,” which features all the signature moments you remember from before (“you go Glenn Coco!”) while also sustaining its timeless message of acceptance and self-worth. The hip young cast is also noteworthy, especially pop singer Reneé Rapp, who manages to put her own feverish spin on queen bee Regina George while injecting the right amount of sass into the clever songs composed and written by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin. In other words, it could’ve been a whole lot worse.
Directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez, “Mean Girls” thrives on this energetic young cast who aren’t trying to mimic the 2004 version so much as pay homage to it. And, in some cases, they just recycle the same jokes, albeit in different ways (the use of technology is much more prevalent today than it was back then). There’s newer gags, too, like a bit involving the theme song of “I Carly” that will be catnip for millennials in attendance.
The story is pretty much the same as you’d remember it, stepping in for Lohan this time is Angourie Rice as Cady Heron, the fish-out-of-water new student who just relocated from Kenya and is quickly assimilated into the high stakes, cutthroat world of high school cliques. She befriends Janis (“Moana” star Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (scene stealer Jaquel Spivey) who try to act as her guardian angel before she’s surprisingly given an invitation to sit with Regina (Rapp) and her two BFF’S Gretchen Weiner (Bebe Wood) and Karen Shetty (Avantika) who basically run the school. Cady, working alongside Janis and Damian, uses her access to infiltrate the girl squad and cause friction from within and, maybe, go on a date with Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), the cute guy from her AP Calculus class.
Fun and upbeat tunes like “Apex Predator” and a Halloween-themed sequence that revolves around songs called “Sexy” and “Someone Gets Hurt” gives this spunky “Mean Girls” its rhythm, even if you’re constantly in a state of comparison to the original film, which is obviously the definitive version. But Fey and company are okay with that analogy, making careful tweaks and narrative decisions (like bringing herself and Tim Meadows back in the fold playing teachers) that work on their own terms. It serves as both a refreshing callback for nostalgia sake and an introduction for newcomers looking to understand what the definition of “fetch” means. I guess you can sit here.
MEAN GIRLS opens in theaters nationwide Friday, January 12th.