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Mean Girls the Musical Movie



The words "Belfast Film Festival" against a green background. Orange and pink strips of film overlap with the text.

“Stop trying to make a (musical) remake of a classic 2000s chick flick happen… it’s not going to happen!” Well, despite Regina’s words of warning, that’s exactly what HAS happened, with Samantha Jayne & Arturo Perez’s 2024 Mean Girls musical movie. So, no one may have asked for this, but now it’s here - is it worth a watch? Time for 3 of our writers to don their pink sweatpants and find out…


 

Elena



Mean Girls 2024 had some high stilettos to fill. With a treasure trove of quotable one-liners and insightful analysis of girl friend and fiendship dynamics, the original film has become part of the Zeitgeist. Its relevance remains undiminished, and it even has cross-generational appeal as I discovered when I showed the film to my mum who thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

This Mean Girls – the adaptation of the musical modified from the 2004 version, is quick to establish its setting in the here and now: the film begins in vertical phone format with Janice and Damien unsubtly introducing us in song to the story’s themes. Anybody who didn’t know this was a musical could now decide to make a quick exit. If they had though, they would be missing out. The cinema screening I attended was filled with cackling laughter and whoops, even half-baked applause at the end which can perhaps be ascribed to the film feeling like watching an actual live show.

 

I have to admit my heart skipped a beat when Reneé Rapp’s Regina George first appeared on screen. With the presence of a stage diva and killer voice she stole the show in every single frame. While in my humble opinion Rapp can pull of anything, I also have to agree with the most-liked comment on Letterboxd that labels the popular Plastics as “Shein girls”. It felt like a klutzy adult take on current fashion trends.

 

This also becomes apparent in the film’s depiction of internet and social media culture. Apart from Bo Burnham’s excellent Eighth Grade and Inside, I have yet to see a successful in-depth depiction of Gen Z and their phone use that doesn’t merely treat it like a gimmick and tool for bullying. On a visual level, the gimmicks were fun when integrated into the poppified songs - each backup singer simultaneously starring in their own TikTok-like Video - but it didn’t really have anything new or insightful to say.

 

This Mean Girls follows the original story beat by beat. Many witty jokes and vicious insults are repeated but despite new additions, omissions like “Boo, you whore” and other ruthless Regina moments were sorely missed. While I welcomed some changes like the cutting of offensive stereotyping, the lack of slut shaming misses out on the critique and analyses the 2004 version had. Using terms like sluts and whores to insult each other only green lights existing scrutiny and judgement of girls (and by extension, women) for how much sex they have: be it none, little or a lot.

 

The scene in which the teachers try to teach the girls a lesson lacks the original impact, especially since the mean girls haven’t actually been that mean. Furthermore, even though I loved Auli’i Cravalho as Janice, what was great about the original was an angrier, messier, and meaner version who was hellbent on revenge. This emphasised the final message that Regina wasn’t the only one to blame for this culture and wrapped up a satisfying character arc for Janice too. Conferring the role of the narrator to Janice and Damien also detracted even further from Cady, the main character’s narrative arc who remains unremarkable throughout.

 

All in all, it felt a bit softened and sanitised, lacking the emotional depth, heart, and bite of the original. Despite all of these criticisms though, my friends and I really did have a great time and I might just include it in my rewatch roster of comfort films.




A flyer for a film featuring a young woman's face and the words "How to have sex"
Searching Gretchen's hair for secrets like...


Sophie S


I do not like musicals. Never have. Never will. But I do love the classic piece of cinema that is Mean Girls (2004), so I thought surely, I would at least enjoy some of the Mean Girls musical. I aggressively disliked it.


I spent a good portion of the film convincing myself the film had been on for ages and would be over soon, but when I looked at my watch I saw I was only 40 minutes in, and I still had an hour and 10 to go. It was almost excruciatingly boring.


At first, I thought I didn’t like the film because it was a musical, but upon further inspection, it was just lacking the charm that the original is so loved for. I understand the reasoning behind wanting to make the film, but I don’t understand why you would want to compete with something that’s already so iconic. When you already have a well-established film, that then became a very popular musical, why would you want to try and out-do them both? This film was really set up to fail from the very beginning. I really wish we would get past this trend of remakes; they are always a disappointment, and are you really going to tell me that there isn’t one singular, original thought in the entire Hollywood film industry?


There are some differentiating factors, but some of the jokes really just don’t land when you put a ‘Gen Z’ lens on it. While the original film has it’s problems, it is quite a true representation of it’s time. People do call women sluts and whores, so why do we know have to omit all that language from films, when we can use it as a way to address these issues? However, it is quite pleasant not seeing rampant homophobia on the screen.


Now, having said all this, there where a few things I liked a little bit. This is a controversial opinion to have but I actually liked the film version of the song ‘Stupid with Love’. It is quite a cute song, and has been stuck in my head since I saw the film. And of course, I am never going to be disappointed seeing Lindsey Lohan in movies again.


The best part of the whole film – and the only reason I would even watch a snippet ever again – is Renee Rapp. I don’t mean to objectify her, but she is so hot in this film! She is a perfect Regina, and I really enjoyed every moment she was on the screen. The woman is a treasure, and I am so excited to see where the rest of her career takes her.


I will definitely not be watching this film ever again, if I can help it, with the exception of the clips of Renee Rapp that come up on my TikTok for you page. Even big fans of the musical have shown their dislike for it, and I rarely am in agreement with fans of musicals. I’m just going to keep watching the original, and try to forget that this version exists.



Sasha


Parking the era defining original film is an uphill battle, but get in losers, we're off to the film-musical-film-version of Mean Girls. To be transparent, I haven't seen the original film in years, and I've never seen the musical. I have heard my housemate singing it in the shower quite a lot, though! I wanted to see how this film holds up as a standalone addition to the Mean Girls lineup, and so I didn't watch either the original film or the musical in preparation.

 

So the thing is… it's difficult to be cool if you fail to seem effortless. And it's difficult to be found effortless when you're a remake. This hybrid version places itself as a cinematic reimagining of the Broadway musical, and – because a musical is arguably the celebration of a beautiful ensemble of veritable try-hards – Paramount might just have step-ball-changed the impossibility of seeming effortlessly iconic by reframing their ideal. I say that with love.

 

The brilliant casting struck me immediately. In fact, one of my first notes scrawled blindly into my notebook reads “tiny Pam Beesly”. Jenner Fischer and Angourie Rice are a completely believable mother-daughter duo, not only in appearance, but also in the details of how they articulate their lines. I enjoyed Angourie Rice as Cady; she began as less of a dweeb than Lindsey Lohan’s Cady, though she didn’t quite reach the same height of being ‘plastic’ as the original. However, I liked the way that she drew out the malleability of adolescence: of being caught in between social groups, and the fluctuations between sympathy and selfishness. 

 

This played off really well with Auli’i Cravalho’s Janis. I loved the direction that Cravalho took here; she really showcases the parallels between Janis and Regina George. This gutsy, righteous, creative Janis was better able to keep Cady caught in the middle of right from wrong – though I did find it harder to believe that she was a social reject. 

 

Renée Rapp brought buckets of charisma to her reprise of this role, having played Regina George on Broadway previously. Her vocal performance was so strong that I wish there could have been even more time devoted to this. She was hot shit and you wanted her to like you. I didn't quite believe that her interpretation of the character would genuinely want to lose weight, however, and I found this plotline discordant with the rest of the narrative. This could have been reworked more creatively into a post-Kardashian, ‘does my bum look big in this’ era. Of course, weight remains an emotionally charged subject, however, more recent beauty ideals and preoccupations might have focused on specialised gym workouts, bulking/cutting cycles, or given more devotion to the dodgy skincare Cady gives her. 

 

It's always interesting to translate a production from stage to screen, because of the difference in physical acting these genres require. For me this is where Avantika Vandanapu absolutely shines in her role as Karen. Her exaggerated physicality creates a bridge from stage to screen, built on the joy of being camp. She took Karen's character to a place beyond any iteration I'd seen, and was probably my favourite to watch. 

 

I found the camera use to be dynamic in the way it blended with the input of social media that interlaced the film. Although the portrayal of platforms like TikTok appeals to me less from a visual standpoint, I did find that it created greater stakes for social success versus social humiliation. Nowadays, these moments get recorded and shared with thousands in an instant, and this is a crucial difference from the high school experience twenty years before. I loved the segments that were filmed in one long take, and for me this provided an increased freedom of gaze that I associate with watching stage performance.

 

Ultimately, I think this hybrid musical-film created an upbeat, accessible musical for people that might not typically opt for one. This might in part be due to the way in which Paramount concealed the fact that this is a musical from either of the trailers. Whether this was a money grab, or a way to generate more social media buzz, I'm not sure. I'm not convinced that this film would suffice as a ‘gateway’ musical to other shows, but I did have a fun evening, and I have added a slew of songs to my own shower playlist.


You can view Mean Girls in cinemas from the 19th January.


Edited by Hamilton Brown

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