Mean Girls

A movie based on a Broadway musical that is, in turn, based on a two-decade old cult classic teen comedy doesn’t exactly read like a recipe for cinematic success.  The original Mean Girls, released in 2004, was directed by Mark Waters (2003’s Freaky Friday, Just Like Heaven) and featured performances from some of the biggest teen stars of the early aught’s — including Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and Amanda Seyfried.  It was an instant hit, thanks in no small part to the whip-smart script co-written by Tina Fey.  To say that the film’s musical reboot has big shoes to fill is an understatement.

Directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Prezes Jr., Mean Girls sees Tina Fey return to the writer’s chair, and reprise her role as the math teacher, Ms. Norbury.  The story remains the same as well.  We follow the sheltered girl-next-door, Cady Heron (Honor Society’s Angourie Rice), who has lived her entire life homeschooled by her mother in the African wilderness, as she navigates life as the new girl at an American high school.  Before she can sort out the school’s complex social hierarchy, Cady is befriended by “the plastics”, a clique of popular girls who maintain social dominance through deception and bullying.  She quickly discovers that their friendship depends on accepting backhanded compliments, toxic behaviour, and adhering to the group’s arbitrary rules.  Together with social outcasts Janice (Auli’i Cravalho of Moana fame) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), Cady hatches a plan to get revenge on plastics and their queen bee, Regina George (Reneé Rapp).  

Besides the addition of musical numbers, which meld seamlessly with Cady’s surreal high-school-as-animal-kingdom fantasies from the original film, the 2024 remake has expanded on the stories of several side characters, including Regina’s ex-best friend, Janis.  These are clever and thoughtful additions that add to the film.  Janis’ queer identity is explored in more detail and nuance, giving her character greater depth and adding much-needed context to her feud with Regina. 

Other changes, like the inclusion of digital devices and social media, as well as more diverse casting choices, help update the story and make the themes of social acceptance, inclusion, and high school dynamics more relevant to contemporary audiences.  Overall, this modern Means Girls manages to do the impossible: improve on a classic.  While the average musical-phobic movie goer probably won’t be won over, fans of the original film’s satirical take on teenage girlhood will find a lot to love.


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