Mean Girls Review: Reneé Rapp Stuns in an Eye-Popping Musical Adaptation

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Summary

  • Tina Fey’s Mean Girls adaptation cleverly satirizes social media while pulling out all the stops in a big, bold musical.
  • The visually and musically dynamic remake stands on its own and features an excellent and diverse cast, especially Reneé Rapp as Regina George.
  • The direction incorporates social media expertly, but the film feels rushed at points. Nonetheless, it’s a whole lot of fun.


Tina Fey’s high school clique comedy gets a groovy, eye-popping adaptation sure to win over fans of the classic original film and hit Broadway musical. Mean Girls cleverly satirizes social media while singing, dancing, and backstabbing its way to comic glory. Slick visual effects and sharp editing add a new dimension to a known narrative. But most importantly, it doesn’t lose sight of a critical moral lesson about a continued problem — the ugly scourge of bullying and low self-esteem pervades. Mean Girls reminds us that everyone hurts and those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

16-year-old Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) sits in a Kenyan savannah dreaming of a normal life. She’s been homeschooled by her doting mother (Jenna Fischer) and desperately wants to interact with other teenagers. Her wish comes true when mom accepts a position at Northwestern University. She looks forward to her sophomore year at North Shore High School, but quickly learns she’s left one jungle for another.

Cady’s ignored and mocked by the other students on her first day. The situation gets worse when no one wants her to sit beside them at lunch. A crestfallen Cady is shown much needed kindness from the artsy outcast Janis ‘Imi’ike (Auliʻi Cravalho) and her flamboyant bestie, Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey). They dutifully inform her of the groups that make up the school’s social hierarchy. The Plastics, led by the ruthless blonde queen bee, Regina George (Reneé Rapp), crushes anyone in her path. The fawning Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Wood) and utterly brainless Karen Shetty (Avantika) follow Regina like obedient dogs.


Regina and the Plastics

Mean Girls Poster
Mean Girls (2024)

Release Date
January 12, 2024

Director
Samantha Jayne , Arturo Perez Jr.

Pros
  • A visually and musically dazzling remake brings Broadway to cinemas.
  • An excellent and diverse cast beats the first film, especially Reneé Rapp; she is a true star as Regina George.
  • The direction is dynamic and incorporates social media expertly.
Cons
  • The film feels rushed and never pauses to let things sink in.
  • The handling of bullying is a bit too light and pat.

Cady’s outlook brightens during her AP calculus class. She’s smitten by the hunky math stud Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney). Janis and Damian warn Cady to tread carefully. Aaron is Regina’s ex-boyfriend. She dumped him but wouldn’t take kindly to Cady’s crush. That secret becomes a ticking time bomb when something truly unexpected happens — Regina invites a shocked Cady to sit with the Plastics.

Directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. sparkle like a glitter ball in their feature film debut. Mean Girls is constantly in flux with a creative approach. For example, Janis and Damian’s narration of the story changes aspect ratios depending on their use of devices. Teens see the world through cell phone cameras. That visual format makes sense when spreading juicy gossip. The screen widens when the students attend class and deal with hapless adults. The filmmakers also split viewpoints to reflect different reactions. Filters and emojis bounce around as salacious rumors spread like wildfire. This gimmick never gets old and serves a key objective — updating supporting characters in real time. They’re able to forward the plot with their unique spin in the same frame.

Choreographer Kyle Hanagami (Red, White & Royal Blue, Over the Moon) takes his music video experience to a higher level. The film has huge set pieces where multiple extras are involved in complex dance routines. These scenes look incredible, but Hanagami achieves the same intricate success in smaller environments. The background comes alive as Cady sits in class and walks through the school halls. She’s primary, but the secondary focus is never static as supporting players jump, spin, and jive around her. Their movements are sometimes subtle, depending on the situation. A humorous group response to Cady’s bumbling over Aaron is brilliantly executed.

Reneé Rapp Steals the Show

Reneé Rapp, who also played Regina on Broadway, steals the show with a star-making performance. She’s a firebrand with a vivacious yet sneering beauty and stunning vocals. Regina has this wicked countenance that’s both intimidating and intoxicating, projecting a condescending confidence — ‘Yes, I’m awesome, worship me, and then get the hell out of my way.’ Her brutal takedowns would make anyone shiver in their boots. Regina is an alpha in every sense of the word. You can’t help but smile at her comeuppance, but also understand why Cady would leap at the chance to be her frenemy.

Mean Girls gets top marks for inclusive and diverse casting. These terms have unfortunately become arrows in the culture wars. That shouldn’t always be the case. Schools are melting pots. The film had to reflect the heterogeneous nature of American society. Anyone who watches will see someone like them. This wasn’t so in the original. Fey makes an effort to right that wrong and it pays off.

Mean Girls delivers its message like an IV drip of caffeine and sugar. The shotgun pacing can be exhausting depending on your perspective. The film doesn’t pause long enough for solemn reflection when feelings get hurt. Fey’s script addresses bullying with a lighter touch when an extra spoonful of gravitas might have been more impactful. This is a musical comedy, but the underlying themes aren’t trivial. It could have had less razzle-dazzle and not lost a step.

Mean Girls is a production of Broadway Video and Little Stranger. It will be released theatrically on January 12th from Paramount Pictures. Check out the trailer below:

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