Mean Girls 2024: A breakdown of the highs and lows of this highly anticipated blockbuster

This movie adaptation of the Broadway musical captures the essence of cinematic nostalgia but lacks authenticity

Art by Rachel De Freitas

Art by Rachel De Freitas

In the two decades since Regina George and the “Plastics” ruled North Shore High, the landscape has evolved dramatically. Smartphones are now extensions of our hands, social media is a modern Colosseum, and the internet is a sprawling “Burn Book.” 

Yet, in the eccentric world of Mean Girls 2024, some high school constants remain — cliques, drama, mathletes freestyling calculus, and the perilous dance with school buses. Only this time, the apex predators and their prey are doing it in song and dance.

Tina Fey’s leap from adapting the 2004 comedy into a Broadway musical set the stage for a film rendition of the musical. Mean Girls has seamlessly traversed from screen to stage and back again, a trend capturing the essence of cinematic nostalgia and modern reinvention. The Gen Z audience, having claimed the musical as its own, eagerly anticipates a big-screen revival.

However, Mean Girls 2024 unravels as a kaleidoscopic take on the Broadway show, directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. Amidst the visual chaos, and trust me it’s a lot, moments of brilliance shine through. 

Auli’i Cravalho commands the screen as Janis, and Kyle Hanagami’s choreography in “Apex Predator” transforms North Shore’s student body into a wild menagerie. “What’s Wrong With Me?” and Karen’s twisted gem in “Sexy” stand out as flashes of excellence.

In their inaugural feature, Jayne and Perez Jr. maintain a steady pace, although moments of vibrant energy are infrequent. They employ a vivid colour palette and fourth-wall-breaking technique, saturating the frame with smartphone images where characters gaze directly at the camera. 

These screens-within-screens fracture the visual landscape, emphasizing the omnipresence of social media. What’s lacking is the immersive, nearly transcendent encounter that staring at smartphones can evoke — an engagement that adept films effortlessly achieve. 

The songs rarely emerge naturally from the storyline. Instead, they often feel uncomfortably forced, and I did cringe at times, creating a sense of anticipation rather than enjoyment. What exacerbates the issue is the music’s excessively polished and studio-enhanced production, leaving you yearning for the raw charm of characters breaking into spontaneous song. In the realm of musical shortcomings, this becomes a significant deal-breaker.

In 2019, Reneé Rapp assumed the iconic role of Regina George on Broadway, later departing the production due to mental-health reasons. Her return for the film version marks a triumphant comeback, as she effortlessly commands the screen from the moment Regina struts into the school lunchroom. 

This is not a critique against Angourie Rice who plays Cady Heron, Cravalho, Christopher Briney who portrays a rather tasteless version of the sensitive heartthrob Aaron Samuels, or Rapp’s fellow screen “Plastics,” including the original Regina, Rachel McAdams. 

However, Rapp possesses an unparalleled ability to embody Regina — vamping, vulnerability, environmental toxicity, adulation, attention, withdrawal, and an icy stare — all converging to establish her ownership of the role. 

As Rapp takes the spotlight to unleash Regina’s declaration of vengeance in “World Burn,” Mean Girls momentarily fulfills every expectation of a musical — fierce, fun, funny, and somewhat frightening, powerfully evoking the notion that high school is a realm of its own torment. 

You don’t require knowledge of her backstory to sense this moment as a victory lap. The student body quivers in Regina’s presence, and the film itself appears awestruck by Rapp’s ability to not just be a “Queen Bee,” but the “Queen Bee.” Her boundaries seem nonexistent. Yet, a longing remains for the rest of Mean Girls to ascend and match her unparalleled presence.