Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

REVIEW: The ‘Mean Girls’ musical movie adaptation is imperfect, unapologetically fun

Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

The new “Mean Girls” movie is so fetch. Well, kind of. It’s pretty fetch. 

More than 20 years ago, Tina Fey adapted Rosalind Wiseman’s parenting self-help book, “Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World” into a screenplay that what would become the original 2004 movie, “Mean Girls.” 

The cult classic status of “Mean Girls” may have been inevitable. With 2000’s it-girl Lindsay Lohan as the lead, a script overflowing with iconic quotable one-liners and the inclusion of possibly every single teen comedy trope, the film has had a timeless cultural impact.

How do you successfully adapt or follow up on an enigma of a film like “Mean Girls”? Maybe just try doing the opposite of whatever “Mean Girls 2” was. For this movie, an entirely new cast, a team of writers and story touting the “Mean Girls” name wasn’t enough to carry it to being anything more than a shameless cash-grab.

In 2016, the entertainment industry gave “Mean Girls” another shot, turning “Mean Girls” into a Broadway musical. I love musicals, hyper-feminine ones especially. I’ve streamed the “Legally Blonde the Musical” soundtrack an embarrassing amount of times. So, the “Mean Girls” musical had been on my radar for a while. 

I think that a line from Karen’s Halloween costume song, “I can be a sexy doctor and cure some sexy cancer. I can sexy cure some cancer!” rivals the original movie in every way. 

From a non-fiction book to a movie to a musical to a musical movie, ignoring a really bad sequel somewhere in between, “Mean Girls” (2024) was born.

The bold, theatrical songs from the Broadway musical were altered to a pop rhythm that powerhouse singers like Reneé Rapp (Regina), Auli‘i Cravalho (Janis), and Jaquel Spivey (Damian) could make work. Avantika Vandanapu did flawless as Karen, including herrendition of “Sexy.”  This, unfortunately, didn’t bode for the rest of the cast, who, though stellar in their own right, gave forgettable performances musically. 

There’s a lot I love about the movie, and maybe a bit more that disappointed me. Still, If there is anything to say about the new “Mean Girls,” it is that it’s a love letter to its original film. 

Though the 2004 movie certainly isn’t going anywhere, I was glad to see a new generation of young girls filling into the theater, experiencing the characters and story in a way suited to their interests. 

Although the TikTokification of “Mean Girls” is one of the movie’s selling points, the random mentions of modern social media put me off quite a bit.

The actual TikTok videos are sporadic throughout the film. At best, they offered a cute plot device to start songs. It would be silly not to love the random Megan Thee Stallion cameos throughout the film. But at their worst, they were simply unfunny and repetitive. 

I think the biggest offender, though, was the costuming. It was all too Shein chic. Though I’ll be honest, I think I’m judging a bit too harshly because I very delusionally hoped they’d have the cast dressed in a McBling mid-2000s style. Still, it hurt my heart seeing grunge icon Janis in a watered-down, mass-produced version of what’s historically a style based on anti-consumerism. 

There was a bit of revisionism to the film’s script, but I’m not mad about it. Although the original movie has its loveable basis, there’s quite a bit that’s uncomfortable about it. Cutting the excess of racist jokes, having Coach Carr take sexual advantage of students as a flippant joke, and the casual usage of homophobic and ableist slurs out of the script worked to the benefit of a remake. 

But, in a way, the sanitization of the script took away the cruelty that made the villains of the film. For example: “You can’t join the mathletes. That’s social suicide” was revised to “socially ruinous.” Casually using the word suicide is insensitive, but people still do it, and pretending students don’t cuts on the realism of the film. 

Without being immoral and insensitive, aren’t The Plastics just superficial divas? Is that really too horrible? When done right, a film can have characters do and say deplorable things and not endorse their actions. The original failed to achieve that in many ways, so I understand the apprehension of recreating in full. 

Even though I didn’t connect to the movie in many ways, I still had fun watching it and found many things to love.

The ensemble cast was fantastic. Gen-Z darling Rapp reprised her role of Regina George from the Broadway musical and did the impossible by portraying the character as well as Rachel McAdams had. Despite this, Vandanapu gave my favorite performance as Karen, stealing every scene she was in.

As Cady Heron, Angourie Rice played her transformation from socially undeveloped to a mean girl naturally, staying faithful to the character. I’ve always found Gretchen Wieners to be one of the most complex characters in “Mean Girls.” Bebe Wood brought empathy to the character and channeled her perfectly. 

But the film’s true highlight to my 10-year-old self and me was seeing Janis as a fully realized lesbian. I’ll be forever frazzled seeing Janis get with Kevin G at the end of the original movie.  

People can disagree with the original Janis’ queer-coding. Still, I can attest to the representation I had watching her being ostracized for a perceived queer identity as I experienced the same thing. Seeing Janis and Damien’s WLW/MLM dynamic embraced made my week.

“Mean Girls” is definitely corny, but the constant homages to the original movie were so fun. Like it was getting audience participation treatment, catching references became a game. Seeing  Lohan return, as a Mathletes Quizmaster, was plain adorable. 

For the girls, the gays, and musical lovers alike, get in loser, we’re going to see the new “Mean Girls.”

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Monique Bever
Monique Bever, Reporter
Monique Bever is a first-year reporter and photographer. She is a freshman majoring in philosophy. Monique has lived in Wichita for most of her life. She loves film, fashion, and her cat.

Comments (0)

All The Sunflower Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *