I always felt like I was not the target audience for the Lindsay Lohan starring MEAN GIRLS, but I went on opening day in 2004 and remember laughing out loud constantly and was especially impressed in just how the Mark Waters-directed and Tina Fey written comedy really showcased teenager issues well at the time. Far from a perfect movie, of course,
Here we are in 2024 and this new MEAN GIRLS is a remake of sorts of the original, but also adapted from a live musical version of the original script. So, it’s an adaptation of a musical of an adaptation of a movie. Yes, I’m confused too. What is surprising is that I had to watch MEAN GIRLS twice as that while I felt I enjoyed the movie on first viewing, a second viewing exposed more of its flaws and left me feeling a bit more empty. There’s a lot to enjoy and yet a lot of strange decisions by the filmmakers.
The movie opens, just like the first one, with Cady (this time played by Australian and Paramount-darling Angourie Rice) picking up her life with her mom (Jenna Fischer, very underused here) and moving to the US to attend high school. She picks up with two outcast friends Janis (Auli’i Carvalho) and Damien (Jaques Spivey, a huge improvement over the original here) who want Cady to assimilate herself into the plastics, led by the famous Regina George. Regina is now played by singer and musician Rene Rapp, in a star-making performance. She leads the Plastics with her co-horts Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and Karen (Avantika, stunning) and take on Cady under Regina’s wing.
Even just thinking about this setup, it just felt so familiar with the exception of when a character breaks into song. If I had one major issue is that a lot of the same dialogue exists almost in the way where this can feel like a shot-for-shot remake in areas. I was a bit surprised by this decision as if to wipe out the original movie and “replace” it with this one, but perhaps being such an admirer of the original movie that I was wishing it wouldn’t be a carbon-copy in areas and instead branch out and re-write some lines to modernize it to the TikTok and social media era. Not to say this doesn’t totally fail; the 2004 movie dated itself with landline phones and three-way calling, something that made me laugh on a recent viewing.
The musical sections are a lot of fun with different style depending on the song, and one thing I like here is that audiences will respond differently and have their personal favourite. I really enjoyed some of the Halloween sequences and yet there’s a bizarre one that takes place after a high school assembly and while the technical aspects are outstanding (this is mostly done in a single take), it breaks from two other important characters for some odd reason, then picks up with them right at the end. It’s a really jarring moment that could have been improved. In fact, the entire movie just has this “off” feeling at times, like there were too many collaborators all throwing ideas on screen to see what sticks.
Again, It took two viewings of MEAN GIRLS to get my thoughts across and overall it’s mixed. It isn’t something I would see a third time, and yet some of the music numbers and performances still make it worth watching…at times. It’s one that I would just recommend you giving a look at yourself and see how you feel after. With varying reactions with reviews and audiences, this MEAN GIRLS shouldn’t have had such a divide, but here we are.
MEAN GIRLS is now playing in theatres.