Mean Girls (2024) is not going to replace Mean Girls but the musical adaptation keeps the spirit of the classic 2004 comedy.
There is a universe where the film is going straight to Paramount+. Thankfully, the studio also came to their senses and is giving it a theatrical release. This is a film that audiences should see in a theater. It may be a musical but it still remains a comedy at heart. In my experience, I have the best experience watching comedies with a communal audience.
Angourie Rice steps in for Lindsay Lohan as Cady Heron. If you’re only familiar from her work in the Spider-Man films, I certainly recommend watching her in Oran Zegman’s film, Honor Society, on Paramount+. Rice is not the only stand-out in the cast–both Auli’i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey get scene-stealing performances as Janis and Damian, respectively. Reneé Rapp leads the Plastics as Regina George with Avantika and Bebe Wood portraying Karen Shetty and Gretchen Wieners, respectively. Rapp reprises her role from the Broadway musical. Cady falls for Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), which puts the plot in motion. As for the parents, Jenna Fischer replaces Ana Gasteyer as Cady’s mom while Busy Phillips replaces Amy Poehler as Regina’s mom.
The musical deals with the same basic gist of a plot even if it expands the run time from 97 to 112 minutes. The good thing is that the editing keeps the film running with a brisk pace. I would comment that I didn’t look at my watch once but I need to replace the battery. That being said, I did not find myself wanting to fast forward through a song, It’s interesting in how Fey chose to adapt from screen to stage and then back to screen again. There are some changes and I’ll touch on those soon. The fact that Fey keeps some of the most quotable lines as regular dialogue and not music is a good thing.
If you’re coming from the musical, there are less musical numbers and some other changes. One reason for this is to keep the film running at under two hours. This is chance from the musical’s two and a half hour run time. I have got to give Tina Fey some credit in adapting the musical for the screen. The fact that both she and Tim Meadows are involved are one of the reasons why the film retains the spirit from the original. Even with the changes for a social media era, the film would not be what it is without Fey or Meadows. There is nobody else that could portray Ms. Norbury and Principal Duval in a film version.
Tim Meadows is one of the best improvisers on the planet. His line delivery in Mean Girls could rival any comedian. Seriously. Watch his delivery here and than watch his work in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Granted I might be biased because of my previous involvement in the Chicago improv scene but the man is a legend. I’m curious what lines are on the cutting room for. Paramount, I beg of you to please have a bonus feature with all of Tim’s line deliveries. Whether they are in the film or not, audiences will be all the better for it.
I have a few issues with the film but they’re minor for the most part. In fairness, I’m coming from the perspective of having only seen the original film. I have not seen the musical on stage so the film is my first experience. But in any event, I’m curious why Tina Fey chose to remove Cady’s dad, Mr. Heron, from the adaptation. I get making changes because 2024 is not the same as 2023. Removing the subplot regarding Coach Carr (Jon Hamm) is completely understandable giving his behavior in 2004 and how it is inappropriate today. Curiously, “Rockin’ Around the Pole” replaces “Jingle Bell Rock” during the Winter Talent Show performance. The performance goes to hell but doesn’t quite match the classic. Like I said, we’ll always have 2004.
One downside of releasing the film in January is that it is too early of a release for anyone to remember the performances later in the year. There are a number of performances worthy of awards consideration. Will Paramount consider releasing the film back in theaters to get the talk started again? If you want my opinion, Angourie Rice, Reneé Rapp, Auli’i Cravalho, and Jaquel Spivey are all worthy of being in the conversation for their performances. Tim Meadows, too. Improv comedians just do not get the same level of respect as dramatic actors when it comes to awards.
Mean Girls has something for everyone–both fans of the original and a newer generation–while still trying to make fetch happen.
DIRECTORS: Samantha Jayne and 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, with Tim Meadows
Paramount Pictures will release Mean Girls in theaters on January 12, 2024. Grade: 4/5
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