It’s not just déjà vu with fabulous musical flair – Mean Girls is back, but maybe not with as much of a vengeance as its predecessor. Directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr have brought the broadway show based on the cult classic back to the silver screen once again. While it does retain much of the campy and fun hallmarks of the original, perhaps with the latest iteration we have found that the limit really does exist?
While a lot has changed in the 20 years since the original (chiefly smartphones letting students capture every moment of humiliation and spreading gossip in a heartbeat), many things remain the same: there are herds of different cliques that roam the wilds of the school, anyone can manufacture drama and the Plastics will reign supreme. Tina Fey’s satirical look at highschool culture through the lens of a teenage girl is still spot on as it recycles many of the jokes from the original film, but has updated its context to suit a 2024 audience.
To begin, we open on a wholesome and doe-eyed Cady Heron (Australia’s own Angourie Rice) in an undisclosed section of the African savannah, longing (and singing) for an average ‘normal’ life in the States. Unfortunately, as we well know, that is not what is waiting for her at North Shore High. Enter the well known cast of characters from the original film. There’s the lovable outcasts: Janis Sarkisian (Auliʻi Cravalho – you might recognise her as the voice of Moana) and Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey), who guide Cady through the dangers of high school. Then we have the Plastics: Regina George (Reneé Rapp), Gretchen Weiners (Bebe Wood) and Karen Shetty (Avantika Vandanapu) who make up the lion’s share of those dangers. Then finally our updated floppy haired heartthrob: Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney).
One element that this film does struggle with is pacing. To cut the glitz and glamour of a full-scale musical theatre production down into a film is no mean feat. Directors Jayne and Perez Jr try to do it all and at times miss. The big dance numbers feel like they flicker past in one to many jump cuts, the ‘in phone’ Tik-Tok-esque shots get repetitive, and the comedic moments which normally rely on an awkward pause are rushed through and we’re force-fed a punch line.
Despite its flaws, Mean Girls does serve up a heady taste of nostalgia and the songs that they’ve chosen to include are phenomenal. Standouts definitely go to Tina Fey and Tim Meadows, returning as Ms. Norbury and Principal Duvall, and the divine Reneé Rapp. Rapp’s performance as Regina is truly unparalleled – from her outstanding solos and perfectly pitched acting – she commands every scene she is in.
It might seem like this is another film seeking to capitalise on the era of The Girl, Mean Girls is something entirely new. Although it has lost the ‘teeth’ of the original – the earnest nature of musicals undermines the cleverness of Fey’s original satire – it is still a testimony to the fearsome power of teenage girls. If you want to be less deep, it’s a damn fun romp. 6/10