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Revisiting a High School Classic, 20 Years Later

Lior Austrian-Jacobs, Grade 9, Staff Writer


Just over a month after its release, Mean Girls (2024) has joined its predecessor from 2004 in the club of movies that have grossed over $100 million in the box office internationally. The wildly popular remake was based on the Broadway musical, which was inspired by Tina Fey’s classic from 2004. The original Mean Girls was inspired by the non-fiction guide for parents with teenage daughters called ‘Queen Bees and Wannabes’ by Rosalind Wiseman. However, the new movie musical, in its attempt to capture the spirit and success of the original 2004 movie, failed to honor what it was actually supposed to be adapting – a Broadway musical.

As did both the original and the musical, Mean Girls (2024) begins with Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) moving from the wild food chains of Kenya, where her parents were researchers, to the wild food chains of high school. Balancing her grades, a crush on Aaron Samuels (Chris Briney), and her social status, Cady works with Janis Ian (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey) to take down the queen bee Regina George (Reneé Rapp), all the while getting swept up into Regina’s world. Scattered throughout the movie are songs from the Broadway show, but these are often done in a way that loses the Broadway feel of many of the original songs. Angourie Rice’s performances in “Revenge Party” and “Stupid With Love” have been the subject of much scrutiny online because of the lack of energy and musical theater technique present, and unfortunately, this theme continues throughout the movie.

For those who followed Mean Girls promotion, trailers, and ads, the lack of emphasis on the songs won’t come as a surprise, seeing as most of their teasers or posters downplayed the musical theater aspect of the production, choosing to promote it only as a modern remake of the original 2004 movie instead of the Broadway musical. In an interview with Variety, Paramount’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution Marc Weinstock said they “didn’t want to run out and say it’s a musical because people tend to treat musicals differently. This movie is a broad comedy with music.” A small music note in the title provides the only indication of the Broadway showstopper that supposedly inspired the movie. The production team’s choice to shove the musical theater elements to the side is evident in the movie because, with the exception of Reneé Rapp’s “World Burn” and Auli’i Cravalho as Janis’s powerful “I’d Rather Be Me”, most songs are forgettable and blur together.

The lack of focus on the musical elements doesn’t take away from the humor present in every rendition of this story. Whether it was slapstick comedy, witty one-liners, or over-the-top dance numbers, this movie did what it was supposed to do: make every theater burst out laughing. This lighthearted and comical spirit was preserved, despite the fact that some jokes from the original were not due to their dated punchlines. In “Sexy”, the Halloween number sung by lovable airhead Karen Smith (Avantika), a sexy Rosa Parks costume becomes a sexy Joan of Arc costume. Numerous elements of the plotline surrounding Regina’s weight were cut, likely due to how attitudes surrounding diet culture have changed in the past 20 years. Also, smartphones proliferated among the students at North Shore High School, indicating the new, time period in this movie. Despite the changes, the heart of the movie remains the same.

As a revisiting of a classic that got millions through the ups and downs of teenage life, the 2024 Mean Girls movie works well as an excellent nostalgic and hilarious update to the story. However, it leaves its musical theater roots behind and the songs fall flat. But despite its faults, Mean Girls creates a new perspective in a modern world that provides a worthwhile watch for those who grew up with the original.

Mean Girls (2024)

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