The popular high school comedy centered around social hierarchy has now entered its third stage of development, following in the footsteps of successful adaptations like Hairspray, The Producers, and The Color Purple. This includes the original movie, a stage musical, and then a movie version of the musical. When the 2004 film first premiered, my personal response was a negative review, as I felt it fell short compared to other similar films such as Clueless, Election, and 10 Things I Hate About You. Furthermore, I believed it tried to address the issue of beauty standards while also indulging in them.
However, I may have not given enough focus to the standout comedic lines; Tina Fey, the screenwriter, ultimately created a genuine masterpiece with the television show 30 Rock. She was able to effectively portray the constant struggle between achieving success and showing kindness through her own character. Furthermore, the Broadway adaptation of Mean Girls was a significant improvement from the film because the addition of musical elements made it more comically dramatic, explicitly highlighting the “diva” theme. This movie version also succeeds in a similar manner, although it suffers in the prolonged third act, similar to the subsequent film adaptation.
Angourie Rice portrays the character originally portrayed by Lindsay Lohan: a kind and naive teenager named Cady who was previously homeschooled by her scholarly mother in Kenya. Cady is now living in the United States and must navigate fitting in at a new high school where her nerdy appearance (though beautiful) makes her an outsider. Tina Fey returns as her former math teacher, Ms. Norbury, while Jon Hamm takes on the role of a cringe-worthy sports coach and sexual relations counselor. The film also features another memorable cameo appearance.
New student Cady is mentored by the knowledgeable and socially outcast Damian and Janis as she navigates the complexities of high school. Jaquel Spivey and Auli’i Cravalho deliver outstanding performances as they not only support Cady, but also serve as the narrators, immersing the audience in the 112-minute story as if it were a TikTok video on a smartphone. Damian and Janis, who exist outside of the traditional power structure, are able to show Cady the many cliques and sources of influence within the school, with the most intimidating being the popular “plastics” – a group of mean girls and Instagram influencers who hold all the power.
The pouting queen of capricious blonde cruelty, Regina, who was originally portrayed by Rachel McAdams and is now played by Renée Rapp, rules over them. It is entertaining for Regina to pretend to welcome Cady into their group, and Janis, who has a history with Regina, encourages Cady to join and infiltrate this hateful group. However, it is possible that Cady may end up enjoying being a shallow blonde “plastic.” Within the mean girls themselves, Avantika Vantanapu steals the scene as the outrageously vapid Karen. She performs the movie’s best song, “Sexy,” during the Halloween party scene. Busy Phillips is hilarious as Regina’s needy mother, who desperately wants to be a part of her daughter’s clique.
Although there are moments of humor and enjoyment throughout, the portrayal of Ms. Norbury as a drug dealer in this business-themed film feels forced and unconvincing. The lack of laughs makes it not worth the effort, and it takes a while for the final resolution and Cady’s personal growth to come to fruition. However, the musical numbers provide a temporary burst of energy, and the traditional jokes are well-executed.