Mean Girls is a modern cult classic. The original 2004 movie grew into a franchise, first with its lesser-known and less popular sequel Mean Girls 2, eventually followed by the wildly successful theater adaptation, the Mean Girls musical in 2017. Most recently, the stage adaptation returned to the screen when the Mean Girls movie musical was released on Jan 12, 2024.
Mean Girls is a cultural phenomenon that has shaped the past two decades of pop culture. The comedy in the original movie has been referenced in media for years afterward and even plays a relatively large role in modern media. Several TikTok trends originated from the Mean Girls franchise, including the audio from the original film, “I’m always on your left. And right now you’re getting on my last nerve. Switch,” and a lyric from the Broadway musical song “Sexy,” “This is modern feminism talking / I expect to run the world in shoes I cannot walk in.”
Paramount Pictures announced a musical film adaptation of the Broadway show in January 2020, making it almost exactly four years later when Mean Girls 2024 opened in theaters. The film is currently still playing in theaters. While I would recommend the new musical to anyone who enjoyed the original movie, fans of the Broadway show may want to wait before getting their hopes up.
The star-studded cast of Mean Girls 2024 was spectacular. Angourie Rice (Spider-Man: Homecoming) stars as the main character, Cady Heron, supported by Auliʻi Cravalho (Moana) as Janis Sarkisian and Christopher Briney (The Summer I Turned Pretty) as Cady’s love interest, Aaron Samuels. Of course, Mean Girls would be incomplete without The Plastics, the trio of mean girls who run North Shore High School. The fantastic choice was made to bring back Reneé Rapp as Regina George, the posse’s queen bee, who played the same role in the Broadway production of Mean Girls.
Despite the amazing cast of Mean Girls 2024, the instrumentals of the songs fail to reach the standards set by the 2017 stage production. The actors are heavily autotuned, especially noticeable in “Sexy,” sung by Avantika Vandanapu. The instrumentals of the songs have been changed from powerful Broadway show tunes to catchy pop songs better suited for the radio than the stage.
Most notably, “Stupid With Love” and “Revenge Party” have received a lot of criticism online. The former follows Cady as she struggles with her feelings for Aaron, alongside her past failings with love and the way she turned to math to cope with it. In the Broadway production, this song is lively, energetic and mildly unhinged as Cady swoons over Aaron. With iconic lines such as, “I am filled with calculust,” Cady is clearly a teenage girl who is excited about her first real crush.
However, in the film version, the song resembles something more like a slow love ballad. Where Broadway’s Cady is nearly jumping around the stage while she sings, the movie variant simply stands in place and sings softly, which fans have been unhappy with.
A similar issue is present in “Revenge Party.” In the stage production, Cady’s vocals are loud and confident, soaring upwards with every note. She is demanding and energetic, and often resorts to stomping around the stage during the song. While the movie tries to hit the same feeling of the scene, it does not quite make it, struggling with the energy required for the song. Once again, it becomes a softer ballad instead of a rambunctious song about a girl sabotaging her romantic rival.
Another musical change was the cutting of the song “Meet the Plastics.” Though Regina sings a section from her part of the song, the other Plastics’ verses are removed, cutting one of the most iconic songs from the film. Regina’s section was excellent, but it left something to be desired that the complete number would have delivered.
Despite the disappointment with some of the songs, one new piece of music has the internet losing their mind over (myself included). The song “Not My Fault” plays during the film’s credits and is by Reneé Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion. It features the notable line sung by Reneé Rapp, “Can a gay girl get an amen?”, a nod to Rapp’s interpretation of Regina George, who she described to Teen Vogue as “very gay.”
Another complaint from fans was the change in Regina’s Halloween costume from a bunny suit in the stage show to an angel in the film. Personally, I adore the change. It is fitting for Regina’s character, who is meant to be a devil in disguise, especially in a scene where she seduces Aaron in front of Cady during the song “Someone Gets Hurt,” during which she is wearing the costume.
Besides the fitting metaphor, another reason for the change could be due to widespread rumors that Reneé Rapp was made to wear a skirt over the bunny costume during the stage performance. Allegedly, this is because the producers decided she was not thin enough for the original costume. The change could have been made as a way to get away from the appalling rumor.
In another costume letdown, Janis was given a change in aesthetic from the original movie and stage show in the new film. Instead of her signature grunge alternative look, she was shifted to a more bohemian style. While it does look good on its own, when compared to past iterations of the design, it falls short of the iconic spiky hair and eyeliner now associated with the character. Even so, Auliʻi Cravalho stepped into this role flawlessly. Her vocals were incredible, and she portrayed Janis in a way that pays homage both to the original film and the Broadway rendition. Despite various complaints circulating online, it was a very fun watch. There were a fair share of cringe-worthy moments, but the sheer charm of the film and its cast were enough to make up for it. Does it live up to the musical? Not quite. Is it better than Mean Girls 2? Obviously.
For anyone who enjoys the Mean Girls franchise, and has not set their expectations too high, the movie is one they should definitely find entertaining and enjoyable.
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