In the last few months, Hollywood has churned out movies inspired by Broadway musicals. “Mean Girls” is no exception to this trend. The original 2004 movie penned by Tina Fey became a cultural phenomenon and the highlight of many memes, partly because of its iconic cast and witty writing. Eventually, Tina Fey took her blockbuster to the stage (along with her husband Jeff Richmond) and created a Tony-winning musical. 

Set in the present, the use of cell phones and the internet is more prevalent in the movie than the early-2000s original. The film leverages this to its advantage, giving the original a modern twist. Not even the internet has Cady’s (Angourie Rice) back as she learns that judging others comes at a price. 

Even 20 years later, socializing in high school is difficult for new North Shore High School student Cady, who just moved to the U.S. from Africa. After a disappointing first day, she befriends outsiders Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), who warn her about the danger of getting involved with the most popular clique in school after they invite Cady to sit with them for lunch. Apex predator Regina George (Reneé Rapp) leads this clique, The Plastics, and rules over the school as queen bee with the help of her right hands — Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and Karen (Avantika Vandanapu). Cady soon finds herself in a plot to dethrone Regina and discovers that teenage girls are surprisingly similar to the wild animals she grew up with in Africa just a lot meaner. 

Although the trailers for the movie misled some audience members into thinking this was a direct remake, it is, in fact, a musical. Some songs from the Broadway show were cut from the film, though most were kept in and changed stylistically to sound more like pop music (or “pop-ified” according to die-hard fans). The film also replaces “It Roars” with a new song titled “What Ifs, written for Angourie Rice by Rapp and Richmond.

Rice’s vocals fell flat throughout most of the movie, including during “Stupid With Love,” which shifted in tone from the original, leading her singing to be mocked online for sounding monotonous (I can’t help but agree). Fortunately, she shines her brightest during “I See Stars,” which caps off a very wholesome moment at the end. What she lacked in vocals she made up in acting, which balanced the naivety and corruption of her character. 

The rest of the cast does a phenomenal job with their vocals and acting throughout the film, especially Spivey and Vandanapu, whose comedic timing matches perfectly with their songs. Rapp brings a sense of intimidation to Regina, making her scarier and meaner than ever, and Cravalho’s Janis is just as clever and vengeful as she was in the original but with an unambiguous queerness. However, if you’re expecting Chris Briney’s Aaron Samuels to sing, prepare to be disappointed. 

The choreography takes the music to a new level by adding vibrant and creative imagery, which makes up for some of the songs’ faults. “Mean Girls” also takes some old jokes from its predecessor and develops them further, giving something new for old fans to look forward to. However, Cady and Aaron’s plotline has less spotlight, as the focus is now on everyone else’s relationship with Cady. 

While the modern “Mean Girls” doesn’t quite live up to the original and leaves more to be desired, it makes some welcome improvements and adds to its current cult following. The musical is a welcome addition to the genre, even if it doesn’t always hit the right notes. 

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