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“Mean Girls” is another remake gone wrong

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
A disappointing ode to the iconic 2000s classic “Mean Girls” (2024) falls short in its attempt to bring the Broadway musical to the big screen with lackluster performances and mediocre musical numbers.

Debuting in 2004, the original “Mean Girls” has since become a cult classic, giving audiences a time capsule of teenage life in the early 2000s. Its later transition to the Broadway stage only further cemented the movie’s place in pop culture history. Now in 2024, this beloved story has been given a modern makeover, with the same characters, music and plot as the Broadway musical. However, lacking the nuance and strong casting of the original, “Mean Girls” (2024) has landed itself in the annals of forgettable remakes.

Directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., “Mean Girls” follows former home-schooler Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) as she navigates the treacherous halls of North Shore High School. After befriending Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and “too gay to function” Damian (Jaquel Spivey), Cady encounters the infamous Plastics: Regina George (Reneé Rapp), Karen Shetty (Avantika Vandanapu) and Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Wood).

In the midst of some pretty poor acting, Rapp’s charismatic reprisal as Regina George emerges as the standout performance. Having also performed the role on Broadway, Rapp clearly has control of Regina’s character, echoing the strong female leader she is written to be. However, the remainder of the cast struggles to match the energy and delivery of their characters. For example, despite Rice’s earnest attempt, she does not embody Cady’s transition from wide-eyed ingénue to cold, hard “plastic”—appearing reserved and shy throughout the film. Even Janis’ depiction veers into toxicity, straying from the nuanced portrayal we expect from this underdog. Vandanapu faces similar issues crafting a version of Karen that is, dare I say, too dumb.

Aside from casting, another of the film’s major missteps is its incorporation of musical elements. Unlike its predecessor, where the dialogue was seamlessly woven with song, here the interludes often disrupt, rather than enhance, the storyline. The only song I can really stand by is “Sexy.” Vandanapu owns her moment, capturing the raunchiness of the lyrics with an elegance only she could pull off in that dress. All of the movie’s other performances, though cinematically risky, lack depth.

Looking at dialogue, the new film stays true to the original script, mainly cleaning up outdated humor to fit Gen Z standards. In doing so, the film also uses TikTok and social media to emphasize the rapid dispersal of information, an element that is far off from the original. For example, in the original climactic scene where Regina throws around pages from the “Burn Book,” Rapp instead only drops the book in the hall, allowing students to share the juicy pages through social media. While I can appreciate the attempt to connect with modern audiences, this change in particular felt unnecessary and took away the drama of this iconic moment.

Costuming further detracts from the film’s appeal. The Plastics are known for their iconic style, but this version leans a little too heavily on making the group stand out. Their clothing is far from trendy, and the vibrant color palette only overwhelms the characters’ personalities and their understated authority in North Shore.

Despite these shortcomings, appearances by Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) and Principal Duvall (Tim Meadows) add familiarity and nostalgia for fans. And Lindsay Lohan’s appearance as the Mathletes competition mediator is another welcome surprise, making the film feel more complete.

Overall, “Mean Girls” (2024) is mediocre at best. While Rapp comes out shining and this latest version of “Sexy” is quite the crowdpleaser, neither can make up for the other lackluster performances and the weak attempt to reboot an already excellent classic. “Mean Girls” has a large legacy in the world of teen comedies, and I think this latest adaptation proves some stories are better left untouched.

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About the Contributor
Shivangi Nanda
Shivangi Nanda, Executive Editor
Shivangi Nanda (she/her) is a third-year student majoring in cognitive science, with a minor in biology. When she isn’t writing, editing or thinking about The Observer, you can find her taking walks around campus, stress eating Mitchell’s before exam week or organizing her extensive sweatshirt collection. Owning her old soul, she spends weekends baking or visiting local bookstores in search of even more romance reads.

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