The movie adaptation of the Broadway musical that was based on the 2004 movie Mean Girls is quite entertaining. Phew! I had my concerns after feeling a stage-screen disconnect a few short weeks ago with The Color Purple, another movie adaptation of a Broadway musical that was based on a movie. Sure, The Color Purple has far more ‘gravitas,’ but Mean Girls is way more fun. If the tag lines for The Color Purple (“a bold new take on the beloved classic”) and Mean Girls (“a new twist on a modern classic”) are any indication: everything old is new again. Neither film really needed to be remade. But since Mean Girls decided to take another lap around the high school gymnasium, a Chickflix review is obviously in order. So here goes!
The backdrop is updated to reflect the proliferation of social media and such since 2004, but the plot remains the same. Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) arrives at North Shore High School as the new girl, having lived in Kenya and been home-schooled by her mother. Despite her initial enthusiasm, Cady quickly learns that the rules of high school socialization can be quite complicated. There are the jocks, the theater kids, the math geeks, and myriad other cliques, including a trio of divas (aka The Plastics), led by conniving queen bee Regina George (Reneé Rapp, who played Regina on Broadway).
As she struggles to find her place at North Shore, Cady is befriended by two outcasts, Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey). The quirky pair convince Cady to infiltrate The Plastics and and get dirt on Regina. Cady does indeed manage to ingratiate herself with Regina and her minions– the insecure Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and ditzy Karen (Avantika)– but she wanders into the danger zone when she takes a liking to Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron (Christopher Briney). Revenge plots unravel; secrets are exposed; friendships are tested; and songs are sung!
Actress/comedian/writer/producer Tina Fey, who penned the screenplay for the 2004 original and the remake, reprises her role as math teacher Ms. Norbery. She’s surrounded by an endearing cast of adult characters who all make the most of their relatively small roles. They exist to support the shenanigans of the North Shore teens with a mix of humor, compassion and annoyance.
I saw the Broadway production of “Mean Girls” a few years ago, just before COVID shut ’em down. It was tons of fun, and served as my primary refresher of the original film, which I may or may not have seen in a theater 20 years ago. Fortunately for all involved, the musical stage version translates quite well in this big-screen adaptation. The performances are all solid; the songs, while not particularly memorable, are delivered with spirit and spunk; and the message still resonates: high school can really suck; but with a little luck, and the right friends, we make it through.
Mean Girls is in theaters now.