MEAN GIRLS Review: The New Musical Stands On Its Own

By creating a beautiful blend between the original Mean Girls movie and Broadway’s Mean Girls, we get a new version that stas on its own.
Mean Girls

By creating a beautiful blend between the original Mean Girls movie and Broadway’s Mean Girls, we get a new version that stands on its own. Everyone has been trying to figure out if Mean Girls is a remake or a musical adaptation, and the answer is neither. While the new movie does the original source material justice, including adding in some of the best moments and lines that have made this a cult classic, the 2024 version feels just as fresh and exciting as it did back in 2004.

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On top of that, while the soundtrack stems from the same score of the musical show, almost every song has been altered, providing completely different vibes. However, even with similar materials, I left the theater feeling like I could easily and happily watch all three versions on repeat.

The Mean Girls Update Understands Its Fans

The number one rule when doing a remake or a musical adaptation is to understand what fans liked and want moving forward. Having Tina Fey be the lead on all three projects, has made this one of the best retellings we have seen in a while. Another key factor to the success of this new version of Mean Girls, comes down to the stellar casting.

It doesn’t matter if you saw yourself as one of The Plastics, a Janis or Dameon, or even a Cady, every character in Mean Girls holds a lot of weight for people. This is one of the things that helped draw people into Mean Girls the musical because we got a deeper look into more of the side characters. Even though a lot of those parts were cut from stage to screen, every one of those characters shines.

Bebe Wood plays Gretchen, Renee Rapp plays Regina and Avantika plays Karen in Mean Girls from Paramount Pictures.
Bebe Wood plays Gretchen, Renee Rapp plays Regina and Avantika plays Karen in Mean Girls from Paramount Pictures. Photo: Jojo Whilden/Paramount © 2023 Paramount Pictures.

Reneé Rapp stole the hearts of fans the moment she stepped on stage to play Regina George on Broadway. To see her come full circle, as well as see a different version of her Regina, excited a lot of the musical fan base. What people were not expecting was how perfectly suited everyone else would be. Rounding out The Plastics, you have BeBe Wood as Gretchen Wieners and Avantika as Karen. They understood the delicate balance that keeps them from coming off as stupid or too silly.

While it was a little disheartening to see them take down the power behind “I’d Rather Be Me”, it cannot be stressed enough how well Auli’i Cravahlo embodied Janis. On top of that, the chemistry between Cravahlo and Jaquel Spivey as Damian was on point. In fact, the chemistry between the whole cast was infectious.

A New Sound

Photo of Jaquel Spivey (Damian), Angourie Rice (Cady), Auli'i Cravalho (janis) from Mean Girls
Jaquel Spivey plays Damian, Angourie Rice plays as Cady, Auli’i Cravalho plays Janis in Mean Girls from Paramount Pictures. Photo: Paramount © 2023 Paramount Pictures.

It is no secret that when musical adaptations are made, songs will be changed and cut. What was slightly shocking was that almost every song in Mean Girls has been completely altered for a new sound. Some of these really work as we pivot more to showcase Regina George in this version compared to the original. Songs that were hers usually had backup vocals from the cast and were simplified down to showcase Rapp’s singing.

Songs like “World Burn” and “Someone Gets Hurt” make sense to single her out for the spotlight. However, it must be said that cutting down “Meet the Plastics” was a horrible choice. While a case could be made that the song as a whole is just great, the real problem here is the introduction of The Plastics just fell short. Similar to how it felt lackluster during Janis’ punk-rock anthem at the end. But if there are only two bad choices, in a movie based on the musical based on the movie, then one has to say that’s pretty impressive.

Overall, it was a smart choice to rearrange a lot of the songs. Not only to reach a broader audience that might not feel as connected to more poppy, show tunes. But also, because musical fans now get two soundtracks to choose from depending on what mood they are in.

If You Get It, You Get It

 Renee Rapp plays Regina in Mean Girls
Renee Rapp plays Regina plays in Mean Girls Photo: Paramount © 2023 Paramount Pictures.

This new version of Mean Girls is for the people who get it. We seem to be moving into a moment of division when it comes to social media apps, specifically TIKTOK. So to see it encompassed in the movie as much as it is, felt right. Now while a lot of people seem to have issues with this, I think it’s exactly what made Mean Girls so popular in the first place.

Mean Girls was one of the first teen-centered movies that understood the dynamics that people outside could not grasp. Sharing one’s life on social media is currently the everyday teen experience. And as someone who was the main demographic when the movie came out in 2004, watching it now, I was thrilled to see the message that spoke to me, transfer to a new generation in a way that speaks to them.

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On top of that, the social media aspect was the ideal tool needed to bring some of the jokes from the stage to the big screen. For example, the lead-in to “Sexy” is one of the best bits in the whole show and a lot of us were unsure of how that would transfer over. However, that concern went out the window when you realize Karen is making a video post.

Go Watch It

Mean Girls is worth the watch! There was never a point during the movie that I thought, “Why am I watching this?” The new Mean Girls checks all the boxes by respecting the main source material, keeping a majority of what made the musical a hit, and creating something new and exciting while leaving fans and audiences in awe. To limit this down to just a remake or just a musical adaptation would do all amazingness this film holds a disadvantage. Because at the end of the day, Mean Girls stands strong as its own entity.

About Mean Girls

Mean Girls poster

Release date: January 12, 2024 (USA)
Director: Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr.
Screenplay: Tina Fey
Producers: Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey
Cinematography: Bill Kirstein
Edited by: Andrew Marcus
Music by: Jeff Richmond
Production: Broadway Video, Little Stranger
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Cast: Angourie Rice, Auli’i Cravalho, Reneé Rapp, Jaquel Spivey, Avantika, Bebe Wood, Christopher Briney, Jenna Fischer, Busy Philipps, Tina Fey, and Tim Meadows

Synopsis: From the comedic mind of Tina Fey comes a new twist on the modern classic, Mean Girls. New student Cady Heron is welcomed into the top of the social food chain by the elite group of popular girls called “The Plastics,” ruled by the conniving queen bee Regina George and her minions Gretchen and Karen. However, when Cady makes the major misstep of falling for Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels, she finds herself prey in Regina’s crosshairs. As Cady sets to take down the group’s apex predator with the help of her outcast friends Janis and Damian, she must learn how to stay true to herself while navigating the most cutthroat jungle of all: high school.

But what do you think? Are you looking forward to the Mean Girls musical update? Are you a fan of the original? Do you think any other classic comedies are overdue for a musical update? Let us know your thoughts about the film on The Illuminerdi’s social media.

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