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‘Mean Girls’ disappoints, fails to capture musical’s charm

Mean+Girls+disappoints%2C+fails+to+capture+musicals+charm
Collegian | Madelyn Hendricks

The original “Mean Girls” is one of the most iconic movies to come out of the Y2K era, and its pop culture impact has stood the test of time. 

With the persisting popularity of the film, it’s no surprise that different iterations have come out in the nearly two decades since its release. The latest take on the story is a film adaptation of the Broadway musical adaptation that hit the stage in 2018.

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“If you’re a musical theater fan who was excited to see the energetic musical numbers come alive on the silver screen, prepare to be disappointed.” 

For a film remake of a Broadway musical that received rave reviews and was nominated for a whopping 12 Tony Awards, this latest movie was decidedly underwhelming. 

The original 2004 film, the 2018 musical and the 2024 movie adaptation were all written by Tina Fey. Composer Jeff Richmond wrote the music for the musical, and Nell Benjamin wrote the lyrics.

The most recent adaptation, directed by Arturo Perez Jr. and Samantha Jayne, follows the same plot as its predecessors. We see the film’s protagonist Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) as the socially awkward new kid in school. She teams up with two perceived outcasts to take down queen bee Regina George (Reneé Rapp).

The movie had its standout moments. The movie featured strong performances from most of the cast, especially Jaquel Spivey as Damian and Auli’i Cravalho as Janis. Rapp put on a stunning vocal performance as Regina George, clearly carrying her time on Broadway in the same role with her. 

While the film had comedic moments that were surprisingly fun, it attempted to please both fans of the musical and general audiences and fell flat on both fronts.

If you’re a musical theater fan who’s excited to see the energetic musical numbers come alive on the silver screen, prepare to be disappointed. 

One of the key aspects of any musical is that the songs are a crucial part of the storytelling, but “Mean Girls” seems to treat the songs as an afterthought. The infectious and dramatic tracks from the original Broadway show are diluted in the movie, replaced by generic pop instrumentals that lack the charm and flashiness of the stage production.

As a result, the movie is left with songs that seemingly come out of nowhere with more understated melodies that don’t fit with the stage show lyrics. 

It seems like the producers were attempting to make the music more mainstream to draw in audiences that don’t like musicals. The caveat there is that it is unavoidably a musical. They would have been better off leaning into that instead of trying to simmer down the flash of a stage show. 

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Another letdown is the exclusion of a full-sounding ensemble on the movie soundtrack. The decision to cut down the ensemble is a slap in the face to the theater community, as full ensembles are the key to making musicals work. 

Songs like “Stupid With Love” and “Revenge Party” lack the full energy they had in the original musical, in large part due to the exclusion of a true ensemble in the vocals.

Moreover, the writing lacks the sharp wit that made the original “Mean Girls” a cultural phenomenon. The humor works at times but is not consistent. The rest of the writing flat-out fails to capture the brilliance that made the original movie so iconic. The attempt to modernize the story comes off as clumsy, and the social commentary it attempts feels disingenuous.

The character writing is just as bad. The plastics are supposed to be terrifying — the kind of young girls that make fully fledged adults shiver and become self-conscious. In this version, none of them have the bite, spunk or motivation. 

The character of Regina George is the epitome of this, yet the meanest thing Regina says in this movie is about Karen’s bra strap, and even that alone is not enough to allow the audience to understand why she’s mean or an antagonist. 

The end result of all of this is a movie that essentially mocks musical theater fans by failing to respect the working elements of a Broadway musical that make them sparkly and come to life. In the same breath, it insults fans of the original by watering down storylines and sanitizing one of the most iconic antagonists from film.

That cast does an excellent job of working with what they were given, and there’s plenty of nostalgia thrown in throughout, but it’s not enough to make up for the film’s glaring deficiencies.

Overall, this latest adaptation falls short of replicating both the charm of the original film and the infectious fun of the stage show. If you’re a musical theater fan still looking for the perfect stage to screen adaptation, “Mean Girls” disappoints.

Reach Hannah Parcells at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @hannahparcells.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Parcells, News Editor
Hannah Parcells is currently the news editor at The Collegian, a role that she loves dearly. Parcells uses she/her pronouns and began writing for The Collegian in fall 2023 as a reporter under the news, science, opinion and life and culture desks.  Parcells is currently pursuing two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a concentration in global politics. Parcells has always been passionate about understanding and helping other people and hopes to use her education to try and leave the world a little better than she found it.  Raised in Castle Rock, Colorado, Parcells grew up with a love of learning, music and writing. She’s always working to learn more about the world through history and art and loves being introduced to new places, people and ideas.  On the off chance that she’s not buried in textbooks, research papers and policy analyses, Hannah can be found on a hike, watching movies or at any local bookstore or coffee shop, feeding her ongoing addictions to both caffeine and good books. Parcells is incredibly proud of the work she’s done at The Collegian so far and is excited to continue that work as an editor of the news desk.

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