Did we really need another “Mean Girls?”
Yes, the Broadway musical inspired by the 2004 film made waves, and that toe-tapping music is part of the new “Mean Girls” remake.
Update? Reboot?? Does the label matter?
Still, the original holds up so well as a teen angst X-ray that this arrives without purpose.
Adding TikTok filters and references to “ally-ship” hardly demands a fresh update. What’s left? A film that charms thanks to the undeniably smart DNA and stars who lean into the material.
Angourie Rice steps in for Lindsay Lohan as Cady, the new girl at school brimming with home-schooled knowledge.
Returning co-star/writer Tina Fey both applauds home-schoolers and notes their impact on teacher’s unions. Fey may be a liberal, but she knows tapping both sides of an issue offers more comic potential.
Cady strikes up a friendship with fellow outcasts Janis and Damian (Auli’i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey), but she also catches the eye of the meanest girl at school.
That’s Regina (Reneé Rapp), the head of the Plastics clique who strikes fear in, well, everyone. The two’s unlikely bond powers the film and reveals all the socially awkward parts of high school.
Why bother explaining the rest? Chances are the 2004 “Mean Girls” is still fresh in mind, and the update does little to tweak the formula. We even get punchlines and sight gags stripped from the source material plus a new attempt to make “fetch” happen.
The musical numbers are often invigorating, especially the opening sequence following Cady into her new school. Directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. lean heavily on fast, clever editing to tell their tale, and it often works given the subject matter (and attention spans of the targeted demo).
It’s a shame Rice’s voice is so wispy, although the vocal duties are dispersed across the cast. That’s not the case with Cravalho or Rappe. Their musical closeups scorch the screen, especially when Rappe finds a lower register to capture Regina’s cruel streak.
Cravalho’s screen presence makes you wish the film broke the “Mean Girls” formula and gave her more to do.
The same holds for “Mean Girls” veterans like Fey and Tim Meadows. The film hints at something special about their characters but doesn’t do much with that information. And why cast Jon Hamm, who brings serious comedy chops as the handsome sex ed instructor when you give him just one scene of consequence and it’s over in a snap.
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“Mean Girls” could have gone woke, pushing aside the core concept for another “Patriarchy” lecture. Fey and co. respect the source material too much to let that happen beyond a few throwaway woke lines.
That said, plenty has changed about teen culture since 2004, and treating social media like the only cultural earthquake over that time is another missed opportunity.
The original “Mean Girls” is funnier and structurally tighter than the new version. Still, this version boasts a game cast, a snappy visual style and a reminder that, like the John Hughes movies, getting teen angst right matters more than everything else.
HiT or Miss: “Mean Girls” delivers MTV-worthy music videos and a talented cast, but the sense of been there, seen that is hard to shake by the third act.