Featuring: Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, Auli’i Cravalho, Jaquel Spivey, Avantika, Bebe Wood, Christopher Briney, Jenna Fischer, Busy Philipps, Ashley Park, Tina Fey, with Tim Meadows
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Directors: Samantha Jayne + Arturo Perez Jr.
In Cinemas: 17th January 2024
From the comedic mind of Tina Fey comes a new twist on the modern classic MEAN GIRLS. New student Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) is welcomed into the top of the social food chain by the elite group of popular girls called “The Plastics,” ruled by the conniving queen bee Regina George (Reneé Rapp) and her minions Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and Karen (Avantika). However, when Cady makes the major misstep of falling for Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), she finds herself prey in Regina’s crosshairs. As Cady sets to take down the group’s apex predator with the help of her outcast friends Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), she must learn how to stay true to herself while navigating the most cutthroat jungle of all: high school.
This is not a remake of Mean Girls (2004), made twenty years ago and starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. Instead, this is the big-screen adaptation of the 2018 Broadway stage musical based on the cultured and iconic film. First-time directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr bring similar familiarity and humour to the much-loved movie to a new level of nostalgia and admiration for new and old fans. Taking over Lohan’s role as Cady Heron is Angourie Rice, who captures the character’s naivety perfectly and, more importantly, does a great job of the transformation when the moment eventually arrives. Unfortunately, many other characters we meet are sidelined in sacrifice for more of the musical numbers and story points and mistakenly do not use them to the comedic advantage. Most notably, Avantika plays Karen, whom Amanda Seyfried portrayed in the original movie. She brings added value to the film when relying on the more funny moments that do work whenever she is on screen, and it seemed like a wasted opportunity not to utilise this more. Regina George (Reneé Rapp) is undoubtedly the standout; Rapp also played her in the musical and brings and is dealt with a lot more characterisation in the film. She also brilliantly brings that experience and stage presence that lights up the screen in her debut film.
She does a lot with this role and gets all the notable big songs and puncher dialogue, which is common in most musicals and dramas, where the villain is given a more centred stage in developing those star-making turns. The performances are generally good, and there are always strong and interesting characters. But, putting aside the catchy music, there is nothing original and spectacular about this; there are some added jokes to make it funny, and at times, it felt like a recreation of something that has something existed. But, as the movie progresses, this version of Mean Girls allows and gets permission to be their own thing. There is an attempt to bring more of the updated and modernised aspects of the school setting to the audience, compared to the twenty-year-old movie, and there is an introduction to social media that enhances the plot with a fresh and expanded perspective on some of the characters. That allows each person to shine in their own way and not be a copy of someone from the older film with different, outdated attributes. There is a considerable entertainment improvement as the film advances. Then, it becomes a challenge to itself, especially towards the end, where the film deserves to be considered as an alternate version of the original but doesn’t ultimately surpass it.
There is much to be added to the story and gained when the elements are excluded from the original, including Amy Poehler’s performance. There are always references to the original, which earned the audience applause and approval, with Tina Fey and Tim Meadows returning and reprising their roles. It can find its authenticity when the movie and characters stop pretending to be something they are not. Following the basic plot and doing something genuine when dealing with an already-told story is challenging. However, there is a considerable contrast from the beginning to the end of this film, as it slowly surprises the audience by adding something unique and different to the familiarity, which becomes noticeable when judging and feeling the viewer’s reaction and energy to certain scenes. There is an instinct from Directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr when constructing and enabling the musical experience to be absorbed as if we are watching it from the theatre. The camera often does a big swoop followed by a dive and glides around unbroken shots, bringing that liveliness and realism to the scenes. Mean Girls captivates all the ingredients for making an acceptable and enjoyable film that will attract a new following and a wave of fans that will annoyingly repeat catchphrases such as ‘on Wednesdays we wear pink’ or ‘so fetch’.