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‘Mean Girls’ – Occasionally Stumbles But Is Nostalgic and Fresh

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Whether you agree or not, musicals are all the rage, always have been and always will be. Through the medium of music both lyrical and background, musicals are able to convey so much like the inner monologues or deep dark emotions of any given character, and are capable of moving stories along just fine via musical dance numbers. And if you ask any musical lover, they can confirm this is true: Musicals are catchy. Sure, you can walk into one thinking you’ll hate and you might be right! But let’s be honest with ourselves: We’ve all walked out of a stage or movie musical, humming and tapping the beat of a song that caught our attention the most. And whether you agree or not, the new Mean Girls movie follows this exact trend.

Mean Girls is an adaptation of the Broadway stage musical of the name same which is also based on the original 2004 film. And if you didn’t know, the screenplay originally written by Tina Fey for the 2004 film was in fact inspired by a self-help book for parents titled “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman. Oh, and if you haven’t guessed by now, here is your warning: This version of the story is a musical! However, the film does follow the same storyline as the original film with updates, added touches, songs from the stage musical, and of course, a brand new cast with just a few familiar faces. The main cast includes Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, Christopher Briney, Auli’i Cravalho, Jaquel Spivey, Avantika, and Bebe Wood.

Angourie Rice as Cady Heron in ‘Mean Girls’ (2024). All Rights Reserved by Paramount.

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Now, just because musicals are beloved does not always mean they are the epitome of perfection. Like any medium of storytelling, a musical’s value is linked to several aspects that are a part of the production. And oftentimes, there can be issues pertaining to poor casting choices, lack of soul in songwriting, or even just poor production design overall from sets to costumes. Bringing Mean Girls into the discussion, it’s difficult to say whether or not the film succeeded visually and performance-wise, and frankly, it depends on who you ask. For some, costuming may have been a disaster as it doesn’t match the level of meaning from the original film and chemistry may or may not be lacking amongst our main cast of characters. For others, the film is a great adaptation of the stage musical and succeeds in bringing queerness and a new brand of femininity to the forefront. And to that, all that can be said is yes but also no.

(left to right) Jaquel Spivey as Damien Hubbard, Angourie Rice as Cady Heron, and Auli’i Cravalho as Janis ‘Imi’ike in ‘Mean Girls’ (2024). All Rights Reserved by Paramount.

Much of what can be critiqued about this is completely valid, but many of the criticisms can also be linked to a lack of understanding when it comes to Gen Z culture. This new version of Mean Girls is without a doubt not your average millennial’s Mean Girls from 2004. The entire film is altered in ways that cater to Gen Z lingo, attire, behaviors, and perspective, but this is to be expected given that things have changed drastically since 2004, including audiences. And that’s ok! Not everything needs to be a hit of nostalgia for millennials or any generation before us, and that includes a musical rendition of a movie we grew up with and loved, and probably quote a bit too much. It’s exactly what tries to set apart the two films, putting on display the massive differences between both generations.

(left to right) Bebe Wood as Gretchen Wieners, Reneé Rapp as Regina George, and Avantika as Karen Shetty in ‘Mean Girls’ (2024). All Rights Reserved by Paramount.

In fact, from beginning to end, Mean Girls takes many steps away from the original film to become its own film, while also stumbling a couple times before finding its footing. We see this particularly with its casting choices. For example, The Plastics were all perfect individually, with Reneé Rapp, Avantika, and Bebe Wood each being entertaining and fun to watch with enough talent to show off in their own musical numbers. However, the chemistry amongst the three was nearly absent, an issue that isn’t really due to cast chemistry off-screen. Rather, this is more a symptom of trying to condense various character and story elements of the original film in order to add as many songs as possible to fulfill its musical quota before focusing on the story. While it was very easy to feel the time, it’s hard not to feel as if the film could have benefited story-wise by adding an extra ten to fifteen minutes exploring these characters and their relationships just a little bit more. After all, the title is Mean Girls, and we could have used just bit more meanness poured into the film.

(left to right) Avantika as Karen Shetty, Angourie Rice as Cady Heron, Reneé Rapp as Regina George, and Bebe Wood as Gretchen Wieners in ‘Mean Girls’ (2024). All Rights Reserved by Paramount.

Similarly, Angourie Rice doesn’t quite give the same energy that we recall from the iconic performance Lindsey Lohan gave in the original film, nor does her vocal talent match the remainder of the cast. Additionally, there isn’t enough time given to Rice to truly explore and expand who Cady Heron is and the trouble she goes to over a boy and the consequences she finds herself mixed up in. For a lead character, this becomes disappointing over time, particularly when you realize it’s far more fun to watch the rest of the cast on the screen. But on the flip side, we do see a brand new pair of besties for Janis and Damien thanks to Auli’i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey who bring on a majority of the amazing queer energy all throughout the film. Christopher Briney is also an interesting insight into Gen Z’s perception of what qualifies as a cute boy in school, while the return of Tina Fey and Tim Meadows is exciting as we see developments and a few easter eggs from them in this film.

If you’re worried about the music, fear not. While there are a few songs that don’t really cater to the ears, there are plenty more that are far more fun and catchy. To name a few, “Apex Predator” performed by Auli’i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey along with “Sexy” performed by Avantika are some of the more upbeat and fast-paced tracks that can be found on the soundtrack. Alternatively, “Meet the Plastics” by Reneé Rapp takes on a much more bad girl, rock and roll type energy while “What’s Wrong With Me?” is much softer as it acts as an emotional lyrical monologue. Overall, the soundtrack isn’t really anything to worry about, particularly with the end credits song, “Not My Fault” performed by Reneé Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion, which is definitely a major party jam.

And look, Mean Girls won’t be for everyone. It won’t be for those who expected it to be a copy-and-paste of the original with a couple songs sprinkled in. It won’t be for those who hate musicals and still watched it, whether or not they knew it was a musical. And it certainly won’t be those with a particular aversion to Gen Z energy. Mean Girls isn’t perfect but neither was the beloved 2004 film. And if anything, this is an opportunity to learn to appreciate what it means to a whole new generation while also basking in the way this movie was beyond queer and had plenty of diverse talent, and hopefully this won’t be the last of them. So, don’t forget to wear your pink shirts, send yourself candy grams to snack on, and give Mean Girls a watch.

Samosa Rating:  

Mean Girls receives 3 out of 5 Samosas.

Mean Girls is now playing in theaters.
Runtime: 1h 52m

If you want even more film discussions, reviews, or just some good old recommendations, be sure to follow @samosasandpopcorn on TikTok!

Pooja Chand
Pooja Chand
Known on other platforms as Samosas and Popcorn, Pooja is a movie enthusiast topped with sprinkles of her love for TV. She can typically be found watching anything from the latest blockbuster movie to a feel good anime, and is always ready to start the discussion on movies and TV so you don't have to.

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