Mean Girls movie poster

Mean Girls

In theaters January 12, 2024

Rated

,

110 minutes

Directed by: ,

Starring: , , , , ,

Let’s get this out of the way – Mean Girls (2024) is a theatrical musical based on the 2018 Broadway musical, based on the 2004 movie based on Rosalind Wiseman’s book Queen Bees and Wannabes (Three Rivers Press, 2002). It’s a musical, folks. If you couldn’t tell that from the dancing in the trailers (or the multiple press releases and interviews saying it’s a musical), I don’t want you to be surprised and angry when the singing starts. I tried to warn you.

After years of homeschooling, while her mom did research in Africa, Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) has transferred to an all-American high school where she has to navigate a completely alien social hierarchy. Coached by outsiders, Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damien (Jaquel Spivey), Cady infiltrates the Plastics, the apex clique led by cruel and callous Regina George (Reneé Rapp) and propped up by chronically insecure Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and vapid Karen (Avantika), who is cute but dumber than a box of hair. As Cady ramps up her takedown of Regina, she loses herself in the toxic waters of popularity, potentially ruining budding and future relationships.

As dire as that sounds, Mean Girls is clever, funny, and stylized, a feature-length music video of the most cringeworthy aspects of high school and the desperation of fitting in. Confident expectation and reality collide with the inexperience of being a teenager, and even with high school 35 years in my rearview mirror, watching was like slipping on my old Varsity jacket. Whether private, parochial, or public, high school experiences are universal, which is why Mean Girls has endured for the last 20 years.

Written for both stage and screen, Tina Fey made room for songs by eliminating some of the jokes and scenes that have aged poorly since 2004 and left room for songs by Nell Benjamin and Jeff Richmond that push the film along instead of dragging behind the plot. The staging is dynamic with lots of frenetic background action that keeps the songs and interludes from being stagnant and plodding, thanks to first-time feature directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. The teachers, Coach Carr (John Hamm), Mrs. Norbury (Tina Fey), Madame Park (Ashley Park), led by Principal Duvall (Tim Meadows) reflect the modern ennui of the educational system. You do not have to have seen the original film or the Broadway musical to enjoy this version, and unlike some stage-to-screen adaptations, you don’t have to be a theater kid to enjoy the songs. It’s just under two hours and it’s well-paced enough that it doesn’t seem that long.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, only that it’s my sister’s favorite movie and I hoped it was good for her sake. I can enthusiastically say I had a great time and look forward to looking up the 2004 original.

Mean Girls (2024) is Rated PG-13 for swears, mild sexuality, teen drinking, bullying, psychological warfare, and getting hit by a bus.

Mean Girls is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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