The Plastics are back with another school year of drama in the 2024 film “Mean Girls.” Adapted from both the 2004 film and the 2018 Broadway adaptation, this retelling follows Cady Heron through her first love and rise to popularity with a musical flare.
After being homeschooled in Africa, Cady (Angourie Rice, “The Nice Guys”) transfers to North Shore High School in Illinois. She tries to navigate the school’s social hierarchy and catches the attention of queen bee Regina George (Reneé Rapp, Broadway’s “Mean Girls”). As Cady joins her clique, the Plastics, she transforms into the new Regina while trying to take her down.
Despite not being marketed as a musical, “Mean Girls” included both new and notable songs from the Broadway show. The most enticing songs feature Rapp in “Meet the Plastics,” “Someone Gets Hurt” and “World Burn.” All these are sung in different parts of the film, but every song showcased Rapp’s voice and allure, drawing awe and admiration.
Aside from being a musical, the greatest change between the 2004 and 2024 films is in the audience’s favorite characters. Lindsay Lohan’s (“Freaky Friday”) Cady and Jonathan Bennett’s (“Veronica Mars”) Aaron were hugely popular in the original. However, the casting of Christopher Briney as Aaron in the new film felt wasted. Despite his success playing Conrad in Amazon Prime’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” his character felt devoid of energy or substance. This raises the question, did he secure the role because of his talent or because he attracts viewership? Even the character of Cady felt like a disservice to the original film, as Lohan’s portrayal has far more appeal than Rice’s.
“Mean Girls” is no longer about Cady and is definitely not about her love interest, Aaron. Rapp is the icon
of “Mean Girls.” Her portrayal of Regina was flawless, both on Broadway and in the new film. Not only were her vocals powerful, but her presence demanded attention in every scene.
Another shining star was Avantika Vandanapu (“Spin”), playing the dumb friend Karen Smith. Originally portrayed by Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia!”), Vandanapu amazes as the air-headed character with her
beauty, voice and acting. Her signature song “Sexy” dramatized her ignorance and made for an enjoyable character spotlight.
The mise-en-scène shined throughout the film. The Plastics’ costumes were fantastic, elevating night-out styles to merge with the infamous pink. Extras were dressed in everyday wear to distinguish the difference
in social status.
Once Regina fell from grace, the color of the Plastics transitioned from pink to blue, symbolizing Cady’s rise to power. Aside from just costumes, the sets were also superb. When Cady sings “Stupid With Love,” in her math class, her desk transforms into a swing. After Cady decides to take revenge on Regina, the hallway of the “Revenge Party” song transforms into a pastel wonderland with confetti and optimism. Elements like this enhanced the narrative.
While the original “Mean Girls” drew in its audience and built its fanbase with its story, the 2024 release felt like fanservice, combining the most popular aspects of both the Broadway show and the original into a un-serious parody. The overt product placement of e.l.f., bubly, Cheetos and SeatGeek were especially disruptive to the film’s immersion. Another questionable addition came with the inclusion of social media influencers adding commentary to the Regina/Cady opposition. Stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Chris Olson appeared on-screen through TikTok and Instagram stories to mark major plot points in the social hierarchy shifts. While this was imaginative, the flood of social media additions detracted from the film.
This new rendition of “Mean Girls” is enjoyable but falls short of the original.
Even with some enjoyable musical additions and cameos from alumnae Tina Fey, Tim Meadows and Lohan, the film succeeds in only spotlighting Rapp’s talent and basking in the audience’s love of the first movie.