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Mean Girls: A far-fetched rerelease

By Ilana van der Merwe, February 5 2024—

Since its release in 2004, Mean Girls has been held as one of the top chick flicks on the market. You can only expect the anticipation from ‘Plastic Lovers’ when the remake was announced to be released in January 2024. Going into this film, I knew it was only right to honour its predecessors. This meant attending Broadway Across Canada’s Mean Girls the musical this January at the Jube in Calgary as well as rewatching the original film. Watching both of these presentations of Mean Girls was nostalgic and amusing, but they were also the main reason why I was underwhelmed by the 2024 adaptation/remake. I have come to the realization that the new release was doomed from the start because in order for it to be a hit it would have had to perfectly preserve the best of both the screen and stage adaptation.

Attending a movie in cinemas is far different from attending a show in a theatre, both in terms of pacing and the level in which you suspend disbelief. This becomes clear when analyzing the different ways in which the comedic lines were delivered and received. The same jokes scripted for stage received an exponentially different audience reaction when compared to a movie theater full of viewers. The issue is that these jokes — written for the over acting and deliberate timing of stage performers — just did not land. So, this left all the Broadway lovers in the audience a bit bored. 

While the musical lovers are checking their watches, 2004 movie lovers could not fathom the over-dramatic and yet sterilized tonal whiplash of the reintroduced Regina George and her disciples. It becomes clear with the Plastics introduction that this cast is much more forgettable when compared to the original. The 2024 cast, although talented, seems to have a more charming rather than chilling approach to representing the ‘queen bee’ ideology. Ultimately it is no easy task to replicate the iconic performances of Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert, and Amanda Sefried, but it is even more impossible to do so whilst singing.

On that note, there was public outcry when Broadway fans realized how many of their beloved Mean Girls original Broadway numbers were cut from the 2024 movie soundtrack. Simultaneously, 2004 Mean Girls fans were upset by the butchered script thanks to the trimming of several raunchy one liners made iconic by the original movie. For both of these wants to be satisfied, the 2024 movie would have required around a four hour run-time, so it is understandable that this conundrum was bound to happen (which is just another reason for the movie to have remained in Paramount’s back pocket). The idiom, “if it ain’t broke, dont fix it”, seems appropriate to apply in this situation. Both the musical and the original movie have their own followers separate from each other, but without these two originals, the 2024 movie would have no audience at all. Cutting down each of the predecessor’s star aspects has left a Frankenstein movie with a mediocre script and score. 

The 2024 rerelease had an enormous pool of creativity to pull from, but maybe this was an underlying weakness. As a lover of both the 2004 movie and musical production of Mean Girls, it seemed like this film was trying so hard to honor both worlds that it was never able to do it simultaneously. The scene transitions were very Broadway-esque, with smooth set changes, but the second any character started to sing, there was a lack of enthusiasm from the actors themselves. Could there have been a better way to incorporate these songs into the script without being so jarring? 

Additionally, with the original movie costumes being archetypal to 2000s fashion and the Broadway costumes being unanimously consistent throughout the many adaptations of the musical, it was expected for the 2024 movie’s costuming to be a hit as well. This was yet another failed expectation. Lastly, it seems that this remake has not stuck enough of its own memorable (or merchandisable) content in it to make the same cultural impact that the 2004 movie or musical made. It doesn’t help that Paramount was trying to mask the fact that this movie was in fact a musical. Maybe its audiences would have been more receptive had they not been ambushed by musical numbers.

It is still important to recognize that this remake had its stars that played perfect homage to both the original and Broadway Mean Girls while standing their own grounds. Jaquel Spivy as Damien Hubbard was show stopping and scene stealing — even if directors cut his big solo number ‘Stop’. Tim Meadows reprised his role as Principal Duvall effortlessly, bringing the character back to life with new flair from the musical and new lines from Tina Fey’s 2024 movie script. Additionally, make-up department heads Aurora Bergere, Jenn Nelson and Shannon Thompson really hit the mark bringing 2000s elements and stage makeup together to form ‘ready for screen’ but also age-appropriate looks. Kyle Hanagami — inspired by the original Mean Girls’ staging and Blackpink — created the unique and fun choreography that I think carried many of this film’s musical numbers. 

Although this film was not entirely “fetch”, I do not regret going. A classic coming of age is always a guilty pleasure of mine, and getting to see amazing singers like Reneé Rapp reprise her role of Regina George is something I would not have wanted to miss. 

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