The original Mean Girls is an iconic film, remaining a high school comedy favorite to this day. After spinning the franchise off into a Broadway musical, Tina Fey has adapted the stage show for the big screen once again. 2024’s Mean Girls remake tries to add a unique flair thanks to its musical trappings, but it fails to capture the magic of the original and instead feels like a cheap, soulless copy for much of its runtime.
[Warning: light spoilers of Mean Girls are below!]
Musical Mean Girls
As someone who loves the original film and musicals in general, I was excited to see this new spin on the familiar story, despite some weak trailers. My fears ended up panning out: the new movie is a direct remake of the original in too many respects, constantly reminding viewers of the better version they could be watching at home.
Iconic scenes are recreated with little heart and no added flair. When the film does expand on characters like Janis (Auli’i Cravalho), it becomes much more interesting, only to immediately fall flat again. In some respects, it feels almost like a parody due to the exaggerated characters, but since it’s meant to be genuine, everything simply feels sluggish.
A few songs are excellent additions to the Mean Girls story, particularly one about Regina George’s (Reneé Rapp) hold over the student body, while an atmospheric Halloween number between Regina and Aaron (Christopher Briney) is a standout sequence. Unfortunately, most of the other songs are downright cringy, perhaps due less to the lyrics and more to the delivery. Janis’s solo in the third act is the worst offender, pulling so much focus away from Cady and Regina that the film’s central themes are immediately diminished.
Karen (Avantika Vandanapu) and Gretchen (Bebe Wood) both get solos as well that attempt to add more to their characters. Unfortunately, both songs do so little for the characters compared to regular scenes in the original film, that their inclusion is baffling. At least one of them is a fun showcase for Vandanapu!
The new Plastics and other characters
The characters in Mean Girls are well-known pop-culture icons at this point, so watching the film takes on a strange quality. It’s easier to remember what you know about the characters from the original film than it is to get a read on them in this one. Most of the characters being thin, underdeveloped versions of their original selves doesn’t help that feeling.
Angourie Rice is a passable Cady, but doesn’t come to life until Cady turns fully Plastic. Although her gradual transformation is pretty half-baked, Rice plays the selfish version of Cady excellently. Auli’i Cravalho is fine as Janis but pales in comparison to Lizzy Caplan. She’s got fun moments in a few songs, but her leading musical performances leave something to be desired.
Jaquel Spivey is one of the few actors who truly brings a fresh take to their character, infusing Damian with much more personality and showmanship. While I liked the original character, he always felt like Janis’s lackey to me. Spivey’s take on the character is truly her equal and shines brightly, constantly making you smile and laugh out loud.
Renée Rapp is another actor doing their best to differentiate herself from the original character. While Regina George hasn’t changed much, I loved the sharper take on the character’s queen bee personality. Rachel McAdams will always be iconic, but Rapp brings her own personality to the role and makes her Regina feel more casually cruel. She’s still manipulative, but it’s clearly a different take – one where Regina seems almost bored with everyone’s adoration of her, rather than reveling in it like McAdams did. Her singing was fantastic and inspired me to check out her debut album on the drive home from the theater!
The rest of the Plastics aren’t nearly as fun as the original characters, feeling even more like accessories to Regina. Karen in particular disappointed me, as Avantika had some funny moments but mostly walked around with a dumbfounded look on her face. Amanda Seyfried’s Karen was pretty clueless but had hilarious and heartfelt moments. This film’s take felt too silly to capture a similar essence. Both Karen and Gretchen don’t make much of a mark and feel as though they barely matter, a stark contrast to the strong presence they had in the original film.
Christopher Briney is woefully miscast as Aaron Samuels and is a major part of why the film’s plot just doesn’t work this time around. He’s playing the role of a football jock but looks like someone who accidentally stepped off the golf range into a high school. Briney does his best but his characterization of Aaron has no personality or chemistry with either Rice or Rapp, making their relationships with him boring rather than a fun source of tension.
Tina Fey and Tim Meadows reprise their roles from the original film, but neither seem like they want to be there. Their characters don’t fall flat the way the Plastics do, but it feels like the actors are simply going through the motions to get people to remember what they liked about the original. In fact, that feeling describes most of this movie.
My Conclusion: Mean Girls didn’t need a remake
2024’s Mean Girls remake is 20 minutes longer than the original but adds only two or three scenes worth of additional character development by the end. In that respect, the film strongly resembles Disney’s live-action remakes, which are much longer than their animated counterparts, but that extra time doesn’t enhance the story in any meaningful way.
Mean Girls didn’t need a remake, and this attempt only underscores that fact. While it might be fun to watch once, it’s hard to see this becoming a classic like the 2004 film. This version was produced for streaming before being bumped up to a theatrical release in September 2023, and after watching it, it certainly feels like the kind of movie you put on in the background at home.
There’s nothing here truly worth a trip to the theater, except for maybe Renée Rapp’s performances. But the film drags to such an extent, I’d argue you’re better off waiting for it to hit Paramount+ and just skipping to the songs. After all, you already saw the rest of it years ago.
Mean Girls comes to theaters on January 12. Do you plan to watch this one? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord what you think of it, if you do!