Director: Samantha Jayne, Arturo Perez Jr.
Cast: Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, Auli’i Cravalho, Jaquel Spivey, Avantika, Bebe Wood, Christopher Briney, Jenna Fischer, Busy Philipps, Ashley Park, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows
Runtime: 1 hr 52 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Mature Content)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 22 February 2024
Synopsis: From the comedic mind of Tina Fey comes a new twist on the modern classic, MEAN GIRLS. New student Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) 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 (Reneé Rapp) and her minions Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and Karen (Avantika). However, when Cady makes the major misstep of falling for Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), 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 (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), she must learn how to stay true to herself while navigating the most cutthroat jungle of all: high school.
Every once in a while, we get a producer in Hollywood thinking: Let's refresh a popular movie classic by turning it into a musical. Case in point: The 2004 teen comedy, Mean Girls.
And yes, it has been 20 years.
To some, this might be a good idea to capitalise on. After all, the original was a pop culture phenomenon with its acerbic writing setting off memes and trends - remember fetch? Much of this was courtesy of its talented screenwriter - comedian Tina Fey - so having her return for the reboot seemed a smart enough decision. But perhaps it also made her a little apprehensive.
When it comes to storyline, Mean Girls 2024 follows closely to its predecessor. It goes straight into the heart of high school dynamics and relives its topics on validation, power, and popularity. It's sad to note that as a species, we haven't made much progress despite the large steps in awareness, and that we still resonate with instances of bullying, shame and insecurities. However, unlike the original, this year's version feels a little "hacked" and comes off a little irrelevant for today.
Yes, the team swapped the cast to be more inclusive and unabashedly made LGBT characters the main choice for the underdogs. But in its choice, it was also playing into caricatures, and made the struggles a little contrived. And it doesn't help that the songs washed out any chance for the audience to connect with the characters.
Music tends to move, but when the ditties - inspired by the Broadway musical that came out in 2018 - are forgettable, it hardly adds to the story. If anything, it is mildly annoying to have to sit through two to three minutes of song when it could be expressed in a few quippy lines.
If anything, this was what I believed made Mean Girls 2004 to be such a stellar watch. The writing was fast, witty and shamelessly inappropriate. It dug under the surface of what was uncomfortable at that time, and pushed the point enough to make it funny - like a good stand-up. Sure, there are a few new zingers from Fey in the latest adaptation, but they are hardly enough to save the day.
The only exception is Renee Rapp, who truly brought a new era Regina George to the table. Her appearance fills the screen, and her musical numbers are the most sensible of the lot. The same can't be said of Angourie Rice who plays the protagonist Cady. The poor girl drowned in the large personalities around her, and even her transformation was unremarkable and frankly, unbelievable.
Despite good intentions, Fey and directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. dropped the ball on this one. And it's something not even a cameo from Lindsay Lohan or reference to all the meme lines can save.
(Retelling the power of authenticity and friendship, the story here stays as awkward as the protagonist, and never delivers the payoff we need)
Review by Morgan Awyong