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February 24, 2024

Mean Girls: No, it’s not better than the original

By MARIANA FERREIRA | January 30, 2024

mean-girls-tina-fey

GAGE SKIDMORE / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tina Fey wrote the screenplay for the original 2004 Mean Girls film as well as the 2017 musical of the same name. However, the new musical film that she wrote fails to live up to the high standards set by the original 20 years ago.

On Wednesdays, we go to the movie theater. I mean, at least I do. You should too. Regardless, the latest buzz is that the classic high school comedy Mean Girls is making its way back to the theater. No, no, not the original movie. It’s a remake. No, not just a remake of the original. It’s a movie adaptation of the Broadway musical that was a remake of the original movie that was based on a book. Got it? Yeah, me neither. 

It’s like the original Mean Girls, but a musical. And, apart from changed dialogue and, of course, the music, the plot is the same as the original. The new girl, Cady Heron arrives at North Shore High — a very cliquey school where at the top of the social food chain sit the Plastics, a group of three “popular” girls: Gretchen, Karen and the infamous Regina George. 

The plot thickens when the Plastics take a liking to Cady, and she proceeds to develop a crush on Regina’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron Samuels. Cady joins the Plastics with the intent of learning more about Regina, but as events unfold, she begins plotting against her instead. 

To address the elephant in the room: No, it’s not better than the original. Actually, it’s far from it. 

The major issue with this production comes from it being a musical, but not for the reasons you might think. From the casting to the writing, some interesting choices were made that led to this being a miss. 

It becomes sorely apparent after the first three minutes that the main character Cady, played by Angourie Rice, cannot sing. I mean, she can, but it’s not... great. It feels awkward and shy, probably because of the actress’ own insecurities about her singing. There are parts where her performance contrasts with the others’ stronger performances, particularly Reneé Rapp’s Regina, in a way that unintentionally makes Cady feel weak as a character — which ultimately makes Regina feel more like the main character of the movie than Cady.

And, trust me, it isn’t just me. Cady’s song catalog from the Broadway musical was nearly cut in half when adapted for the movie. Is it because they needed to cut for time, or is it because they knew there were limits to Rice’s singing ability? Similarly, Christopher Briney, who plays Aaron Samuels, does not sing a single note throughout the musical, even though he does play a part in the Broadway production. This trend of shaving certain songs and integral moments of the story to fit the abilities of the actors was a key part in the movie missing the mark from the outset, and not just by a little, but by a long shot. 

But look, it wasn’t all bad. Rapp’s performance of Regina George shines throughout the screen. Her vocal range and ability to encapsulate her character so well make her scenes the most memorable and redeeming. 

Avantika Vandanapu, who plays Karen, is a breakout performance in this movie, putting on some of the best one-liners with masterful comedic timing. Though only on screen for a short time, Vandanapu expertly provides the audience with much-needed comic relief, which increases the quality of her scenes and scene partners in return.

Tina Fey, the writer of the 2004 original, the 2017 Broadway musical as well as the 2024 remake, kept the plot of this adaptation the same while making a few changes to the dialogue, a clear attempt at trying to make this movie its own thing.

The original Mean Girls defined a generation. The classic catchphrases and scenes still circulate today in everyday conversation and various types of media... two decades after its release. All of this to say: it’s hard to beat. The longer you watch the remake, the more you remember that it’s not as good as the original, and the worse the remake becomes. To some, this will become a comfort movie. To others, it will dissipate from their memory in a matter of days. 

Whatever the case, just remember: “The limit does not exist”... on the amount of remakes that can be produced from a single work. Isn’t that so fetch?


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