Mean Girls

  • 16 Mar - 22 Mar, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Mean girls are Hollywood gold, a gift that keeps giving. Mean Girls the film hasn’t done so badly either, making it from a book to a 2004 hit to a Broadway musical to, 20 years later, returning to the big screen.
But, like Regina George, the queen bee herself would say, “Literally, who cares?” In almost every meaningful way, Mean Girls 2024 is a copy of its 20-year-old version, in musical form. This is sad in itself if, after all the gender talk, nothing has changed in how the girls are, as are the boys (floppy-haired, traipsing through life).
Tina Fey, the scriptwriter of both the films, reprises her role of the math teacher. And Meadows of Principal Duvall. They look remarkably like their old selves, as does the high school. What is missing is Fey’s keen eye of 2004. So we are in for a disappointment if we go in expecting her to do more with the Class of 2024, particularly in exploring how social media has changed the meaning of status, and how quickly it can slide up and down the totem pole.
Mean Girls 2024 follows almost to a tee the set template of 2004, with a few cosmetic upgrades – Cady now has a single parent; gone is the unsettling sight of a young girl twerking to a TV dance show, encouraged by her mother; in are some middling songs and a lot more glitter and pink. The one welcome tweak is how the film rounds off the transition of its girls from #queenbees to #bequeens.
Previously homeschooled by her research scientist mother (Jenna Fischer) while the two lived in Kenya, naive Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) is a junior learning to navigate public high school's various cliques for the first time. This iteration already begins on a less creaky start by specifying Kenya as the place of Ms. Heron’s research, rather than the vague “Africa” of the previous film. It also eschews the many, many offensive and feeble attempts at mining the place of Cady's upbringing for humour.
Cady finds her first day of school to be harder than she imagined until she’s befriended by art freaks Janis 'Imi'ike (a marvelous Auli?i Cravalho) and Damian Hubbard (a hilarious Jaquel Spivey) who show her the ropes. The duo narrate, often breaking the fourth wall to directly address the audience through song. Here again the various cliques are described in terms that are specific (band geeks, burnouts etc.) without relying on the racial stereotypes found in the earlier film.
As for Cady Heron, and whether Rice can match the performance of Lindsay Lohan (she makes a surprise appearance here), Rice tries. But there was something of a hurt, lost innocence about Lohan’s Cady, even when she was being bad, which is missing in Rice’s. She is too sweet, and then totally sour – failing to catch that overlap. Cravalho as Janis and Spivey as Damien are good replacements. Wood and Avantika (playing, voila, a dumb Indian) as Gretchen and Karen less so.
But if the film belongs to anyone, it is Rapp’s Regina (though it’s a leap to believe she belongs in high school). Rachel McAdams had her charms in that central role, but Rapp (who also played the character in the Broadway version) brings to it a dominance, fierceness and character that a student who has a high school twirling around her little finger would require. Even as it watches out for those nails to come out – any second.