Mean Girls returns to theaters as a film adaptation of the Broadway musical (adapted from the original film) which never finds a reason to justify its existence. I don’t know what conversations happened surrounding creating a musical based off the 2004 Mean Girls movie, but the music and lyrics scream off-Broadway in all the worst ways. I’m no theatre purist, but even I was cringing at the simple songs and at how what once was a hilarious story has now been turned into something unnecessary. For the TikTok generation there’s surely plenty that will appeal to visual sensibilities, but this adaption feels like the furthest thing from the original.
After moving from Africa to the States, Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) finds herself leaving homeschool and enrolling in a public high school that’s ruled by Regina Goerge (Renee Rapp) and her group “the plastics”. After befriending outcasts Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), the three hatch a plot to ruin Regina’s image at the school at the expense of Cady getting closer to the Plastics. From TikTok drama to music video montages, this new high school battleground isn’t ready for the power shift!
Tina Fey returns to the world of Mean Girls to write (or rewrite) this adaptation and update it for the modern era once again. I had an inkling that it would be a social media heavy adaptation, but I wasn’t quite ready the style of musical it ended up being. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a musical snob and I’ve watched or acted in many various musicals, but there’s a select group of off-Broadway musicals which have always felt like imitation at best and lack an overall quality in music production. For the entirety of the film, I was stunned as they moved from song to song and the music never got any better. Was some of it fun and funny? Sure, but so much of it completely takes you out of the overall experience.
Rather than stacking the cast with recognizable current and upcoming talent, the thought here was to go largely unknown and banking on the hopes that young audiences would recognize some social media icons. Outside of Renee Rapp, who originally played the role of Regina Goerge in the musical, most of the acting talent disappoints and fails to convert the story into something timely AND funny. Sadly, many of the original film’s quirky moments and memorable lines are butchered and simplified in a film that feels like it doesn’t care too much about the comedy.
Mean Girls as a musical may work well within the confines of a small auditorium theater but the translation from stage to screen was just abysmal. At times it feels like series of Glee musical performances that aren’t nearly as good as what they’re emulating, and other times the TikTok integration just feels too leaned upon and takes the story out of “reality”. The film also isn’t nearly as “mean” as the original, though that feels intentional as this story balances social acceptance and modern-day insecurities (just not as well as the original). It’s never a great sign when your lead actress can’t quite carry a tune and doesn’t bring anything to what should be a fun role. If you go in knowing exactly what this movie is perhaps, you’ll have a better time than I did, however I knew everything going in and it still was an incredibly tough watch. I may have wished I made the earlier The Beekeper screening that day…
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