Mean Girls review

Mean Girls: A cautionary tale about how not to make a film that tries to be everything at once

Reneé Rapp undeniably rules the school in musical adaptation that clumsily tries to please everyone


2004’s Mean Girls’ impact on my generation is pretty much unparalleled. To say the film was formative not just for pop culture, but on our day to day lives – our yearly rewatch schedules, our selection of comfort films, our memes – would be an understatement.  20 years after its release, it’s still revered and referenced. People are precious over it because it’s become sentimental. When Paramount decided to promote Mean Girls 2024 – an adaptation of the musical, not a remake of the original – it actively decided to not do so telling audiences that it’s a musical, with president of global marketing Marc Weinstock saying they did so because “people tend to treat them differently”. Erm, well… to quote Karen Smith in Mean Girls: “Duh?” And here we have the biggest issue for Mean Girls 2024 and the biggest qualm when starting to to review it. In trying to be everything to everyone of all ages and all tastes, Mean Girls is a directionless mess that standout superstar Reneé Rapp is trying her damnedest to keep afloat.

Mean Girls tells the story of the original film, but sets it in modern day. At North Shore High in 2024, Regina George and her plastics still rule the school, but this is a school with TikTok’s, texting, viral moments and cancellations. New girl Cady moves from Kenya to Illinois and begins school for the first time, struggling to find her place between her new friendship with outcasts Janis and Damian and the allure of being a popular girl when Regina George sets her sights on her to let her in her elusive fold. They plan to plot the downfall of the Plastics from the inside, but things get messy. Also, this time… musical numbers!

The Rapp steals the show

I had no clue going into my screening how I’d feel about Mean Girls and how this review would turn out. I love the original film and I enjoy the musical too – as separate entities. But when this film embraces its musical source material, it shines – mostly thanks to Reneé Rapp who is outstanding as Regina George. The whole film bends and swirls around her star power. Every word she says is hypnotic, every lyric she sings is gorgeous. To play a character like Regina, you need the audience to understand why the school is terrified of her, is in love with her and is in awe of her – Reneé Rapp plays it so well you almost feel like falling to your knees in the cinema and worshipping at the Regina altar with everyone else. She gets the best songs in the musical and here they’re the highlights of the film, too. Other great numbers come from Avantika as Karen Smith, who sings Sexy – her iconic ode to Halloween – like she’s a main pop girl and the riotous full cast number Revenge Party.

But now we get to one of Mean Girls most unforgivable flaws: the flummoxing decision to cast Angourie Rice as Cady. I’m not sure if directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr forgot, but Cady is … the main character. Here, she’s a non-entity. Rice’s vocals are by far the weakest of the bunch, and wisely Mean Girls strips most of her songs from the stage version and gives her a couple of new ones that are so woefully bad I was shaking my head in disbelief watching them. I couldn’t tell if the mixing of the film was quiet or if Rice was literally whispering through them. Weak, limp and lifeless – unforgivable for a story whose source material is so ferocious. I can also not forgive this film for slaughtering Apex Predator – a highlight of the musical soundtrack here butchered beyond recognition. At least we didn’t have to endure Angourie Rice mumbling her way through Cady’s verse, which they wisely give to Damian instead.

She looks the part I guess

But now we get to one of Mean Girls most unforgivable flaws: the flummoxing decision to cast Angourie Rice as Cady. I’m not sure if directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr forgot, but Cady is … the main character. Here, she’s a non-entity. Rice’s vocals are by far the weakest of the bunch, and wisely Mean Girls strips most of her songs from the stage version and gives her a couple of new ones that are so woefully bad I was shaking my head in disbelief watching them. I couldn’t tell if the mixing of the film was quiet or if Rice was literally whispering through them. Weak, limp and lifeless – unforgivable for a story whose source material is so ferocious. I can also not forgive this film for slaughtering Apex Predator – a highlight of the musical soundtrack here butchered beyond recognition. At least we didn’t have to endure Angourie Rice mumbling her way through Cady’s verse, which they wisely give to Damian instead.

She looks the part I guess

And with all this said, I still think there’s a lot to love with Mean Girls. Some of the direction is thrilling, the cast (aside from the aforementioned) are a blast. If Mean Girls 2024 does anything great, it reminds you how amazing this film you’ve loved your whole life actually is and how much life is in this story still. When Lindsay Lohan pops up for a cameo, you feel like cheering. It’s a classic, and even if people take nothing away from this new version except a new appreciation for the original I think that’s still kind of fetch.

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