Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Mean Girls: Movie Review

The same Mean Girls, now with songs.
The trailer says, “This is not your mother’s Mean Girls.” Except that it is. They added songs and changed a few lines, but otherwise it’s pretty much exactly the same Mean Girls. The updating for today’s audience is limited to wardrobe changes and new makeup styles, and the gossip around school is now done via tik tok videos and group texts.   2024

Directed by: Samantha Jayne, Arturo Perez Jr.

Screenplay by: Tina Fey

Starring: Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, Christopher Briney and Bebe Wood

All of the things that you think should have been modernized like Cady playing dumb to get a guy to like her, or Regina being obsessed with being skinny and Cady giving her weight-gain bars, that’s all exactly the same. Other than Reneé Rapp as Regina George, the casting was also done to mimic the original characters as much as possible.

The lead is Angourie Rice replacing Lindsay Lohan as the wide-eyed, fresh-faced new girl straight out of Africa and into the girl cliques of high school. I like her, she brings a lot of the same qualities to Cady, which is important when you’re just replicating the entire movie. She plays innocence similarly to Lohan’s Cady, but doesn’t really embody the spark of evil so when Cady goes full Plastic it’s a lot more sudden here than Cady’s gradual change in the original.

The cast members that are just as good as the originals (or even better in some cases) are Jaquel Spivey as Damian, he’s very funny and the camera just gravitates towards him, he’s such a star; Bebe Wood (whom you may recognize from Love, Victor) as Gretchen Wieners, she adds sweetness and a level of understanding to her lack of self-confidence that she makes her character funnier and more well-rounded; I also liked Christopher Briney (whom you should recognize as Conrad from The Summer I Turned Pretty) as the new Aaron Samuels, one of the keys when playing the male lead in a female driven movie is the ability to disappear when the scene is not about you, both Briney and Jonathan Bennett have that ability, he also has the hair toss down pat.

Of course what’s new is the songs. They are well incorporated if not as funny as one might have hoped for. The original was really well paced, it felt fast, the jokes just keep flying. A valid concern when adding stuff to a movie is that it would just bloat it; luckily that’s not the case. It is longer but doesn’t necessarily feel longer as some scenes were cut to make room for the songs.

There are two revamped scenes which are clear upgrades to the original. First, after Aaron’s Halloween party, Cady (in full vampire bride costume) goes to Damian and Janis (also dressed up) and Damian recreates via dolls the background to Janice and Regina’s hatred. I had to stop myself from laughing to make sure I didn’t miss anymore jokes, easily the funniest and freshest scene in the movie. The second is also the highlight of the movie, the moment that the director and producers knew they were creating the movie around, Reneé Rapp sings “World Burn” as she plants the Burn Book at school, a very stylized musical number that makes you sit down and watch.

The one character from the original that I always felt could have done more with was Coach Carr, and here they have cast Jon Hamm, and then proceeded to do even less with him. I have no clue why you cast Jon Hamm and then do nothing with that character, but I suspect he has scenes on the cutting room floor because it definitely feels like wasted potential.

The original Mean Girls is a classic because it is just that good. Other than a few songs, this is the same Mean Girls which feels more okay than good. I’m sure they’re hoping that an updated Mean Girls will attract a new audience, personally I think it’s going to attract the same audience who will momentarily enjoy it for the novelty and nostalgia that it is but then go back to re-watching the original one.