The new Mean Girls has a critical charisma gap

The phenomenon of a non-musical film being tailored into a stage musical that then will get tailored into a film is surprisingly frequent, as latest movies like 2023’s The Colour Purple and the 2022 Matilda show. A few of these tailored film musicals have even eclipsed the unique film variations in popular culture legacy, like Hairspray and Little Store of Horrors.

The 2024 Mean Girls is the most recent entry on this very particular style. It’s tailored from the 2018 Broadway musical, itself tailored from the 2004 movie starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. The new Mean Girls most likely bears extra of a burden than previous film musicals tailored from musicals tailored from films, in that the unique film left a big influence on popular culture, and got here out proper on the daybreak of the web age, which set it up for a particular type of cultural longevity.

Administrators Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., making their feature-film debut, have their work reduce out for them, even armed with a script from Tina Fey, who returns after penning each the musical and the 2004 film. They make some baffling selections, like protecting a few of Nell Benjamin and Jeff Richmond’s songs from the Broadway present that don’t actually spotlight the forged’s vocals, on the expense of chopping some extra enjoyable and dynamic ones.

However additionally they do a fairly neat job of updating the trivialities of highschool drama for the social media age. Bolstered by a (largely) stellar forged, who make the enduring characters their very own and showcase their spectacular singing voices, Mean Girls is a enjoyable little replace, although it by no means transcends the expertise of the unique film.

[Ed. note: This review contains minor setup spoilers for Mean Girls (2024), as well as the original 2004 movie.]

Photograph: Jojo Whilden/Paramount Photos

Like the primary film, 2024’s Mean Girls follows Cady Heron (Angourie Rice), a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenage lady who transfers to North Shore Excessive College for her junior yr after a lifetime of being homeschooled in Africa. She struggles to slot in, till artsy Janis (Auliʻi Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey) take her beneath their wings. Unexpectedly, the college’s hottest and ruthless scholar, Regina George (Reneé Rapp), decides to ask Cady to sit down along with her and her loyal lackeys, the Plastics: dim-witted, fairly Karen (Avantika) and insecure secret-keeper Gretchen (Bebe Wooden).

At first, Cady dismisses Janis’ warnings about Regina, however then Regina swipes Cady’s crush Aaron (Christopher Briney) from beneath her nostril, for no purpose aside from petty jealousy. So Cady joins forces with Janis and Damian to infiltrate the Plastics and take Regina down.

The forged of Mean Girls (2024) has a lot of massive sneakers to fill, each from the unique film and from the Broadway musical. Most of them do step up, flexing their vocal chops and bringing their very own aptitude to the larger-than-life characters — apart from Rice. Sadly, she simply doesn’t have Rapp’s or Cravalho’s sturdy singing voices, or Spivey’s or Avantika’s comedic timing. She brings a good wide-eyed naïveté to Cady, however her singing doesn’t maintain up, particularly in comparison with the remainder of the forged.

This wouldn’t be such a evident drawback if the primary few songs weren’t largely centered round her. To accommodate Rice’s singing voice, Cady’s preliminary solo was modified, and a number of the extra vocally difficult components within the group numbers went to different characters. The first phase of the film solely flirts with being a musical: Jayne and Perez Jr. dangle higher singers and numbers in entrance of the viewers with out totally committing to them, as a substitute dragging out a few uninspired songs just like the new-to-the-musical “What If?” and Cady’s romantic overture “Stupid With Love.”

Damien, Cady, and Janis peering through a hedge in Mean Girls (2024)

Photograph: Jojo Whilden/Paramount Photos

Fortunately, these boring songs aren’t indicative of the full-throttle musical theater that the film does finally embrace. When Jayne and Perez Jr. let the film be the musical it’s speculated to be, it’s an amazingly good time. The two finest numbers — “Revenge Party,” an ensemble song-and-dance routine that overlays a montage of Cady, Janis, and Damian getting again at Regina, and “World Burn,” Regina’s large villain tune — are completely splendid. They’re additionally those that the majority play up the musical model’s theatricality, and embrace what it’s meant to be.

Musicals are fairly often heightened variations of actuality. In any case, how else do you clarify the periodic breaks into tune and dance? As such, all of the characters are much more heightened variations of their authentic counterparts. And the actors ship. Cravalho and Spivey are dynamic, grittier, and extra dramatic than the primary film’s variations of their characters, which is sensible in a musical with big group numbers that they headline.

Renee Rapp as Regina walking through the halls of the school, phones taking pictures of her, in Mean Girls (2024)

Photograph: Jojo Whilden/Paramount Photos

Rapp’s Regina, for her half, is extra cutthroat and ruthless, with an iconic voice that pierces by means of the remainder of the soundtrack. Avantika’s Karen is extra empty-headed; Wooden’s Gretchen is extra insecure. All of it largely works — besides, once more, for Rice, who performs up Cady’s ingenuity a little too a lot within the first act, which makes her transition into a verified Queen Bee more durable to purchase.

The story’s second act — from each the unique film and the Broadway stage model — is sped up and finally jumbled on this adaptation. Fey’s script doesn’t dwell sufficient on Cady’s heel flip into a imply lady to make the transition plausible. It additionally doesn’t assist that Rice by no means fairly sells Cady’s ruthlessness. She appears a bit too deer-in-the-headlights, wide-eyed and pushed round by too many different folks.

Each the unique film and the Broadway musical spend time with the new model of Cady, the favored Plastic who’s hardened and turns into every little thing Regina as soon as was. However Mean Girls (2024) doesn’t. Every little thing about Cady’s arc is a bit flattened and fewer, effectively, imply.

Damien, Cady, and Janis stand on the edges of the cafeteria in Mean Girls (2024)

Photograph: Jojo Whilden/Paramount Photos

The remainder of Mean Girls, although, is sufficient enjoyable to virtually make up for a mediocre lead. The center of the film — proper from the enduring horny costume Halloween occasion to Regina’s bus incident — is essentially the most enjoyable, because it totally indulges the musical theatricality and additionally pushes Cady to the sidelines in greater musical numbers. There are some enjoyable interval updates within the film, which takes a lot of the story’s traditional gossip and cellphone calls to social media platforms like TikTok. (There’s one hilarious working gag that includes rapper Megan Thee Stallion.) And there are sufficient nods to the supply materials to please followers. (Did I cackle on the Glen Coco point out? In fact I did.)

Mean Girls (2024) seemingly received’t substitute the unique 2004 film in anybody’s hearts. The begin and the tip — essentially the most Cady-focused components — aren’t sturdy sufficient to hold the remainder of the movie, particularly when evaluating Rice’s tackle the character to Lindsay Lohan’s authentic film efficiency, or Erika Henningsen’s sturdy vocals within the authentic Broadway forged recording.

However Rapp, Cravalho, and the remainder of the forged maintain up the film, and customarily flip it into a good time. There are sufficient infectious songs to make up for the boring ones, although the ratio isn’t fairly sufficient to solidify it as a transcendent musical expertise. (There are at all times a few duds in a musical, however there must be extra bangers.) Total, the 2024 Mean Girls hits the precise notes, persevering with the unique film’s legacy as a substitute of completely revamping it.

Mean Girls debuts in theaters on Jan. 12.

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