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The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

“Mean Girls” fails to successfully balance original film with musical adaptation

Bebe Wood, Reneé Rapp, and Avantika (left to right) in Mean Girls. Image courtesy of IMDb

Spoilers Ahead

The 2024 remake of “Mean Girls” revisits the world of “The Plastics” in its Jan. 12 premiere with a modern twist that leaves audiences entertained yet unsatisfied by the end. Based on the Broadway adaptation of “Mean Girls”(2004),  the new movie is caught between fully embracing its musical side and staying true to the essence of the original, leading the remake to fall short in both aspects as the protagonist Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) navigates North Shore High School once again.

Following the exact storyline of the 2004 film, Cady moves to Evanston after being homeschooled in Kenya for 12 years by her parents, who work as research zoologists. Hopelessly unfamiliar with high school, she quickly finds herself involved in a plan to destroy Regina George (Reneé Rapp), the “Queen Bee,” with the help of her new friends Damien (Jaquel Spivey) and Janis Imi’ike (Auliʻi Cravalho).

The film opens with the song “A Cautionary Tale” by Spivey and Cravalho before moving directly to another song called “What Ifs,” sung solo by Rice as she packs up to leave Kenya. The main issue with these first two musical numbers was their fast pace, which created a sense of disconnect from the rest of the film as the plot nor the setting had time to settle before the film devolved into song. In addition, Rice’s vocals in “What Ifs” lacked the emotion, inflection and passion that would have made the opening leave a sustained impression on audiences and combat the fever dream that was the adaptation’s first scenes. Although her actual voice was not necessarily bad, the pattern of not pairing her singing with acting led her scenes to feel divorced from the storyline, and it remained present throughout her solos later in the film, including “Stupid With Love” and “I See Stars.”

The unsuccessful balance between the musical numbers and the actual storyline also had negative effects on the development of Cady’s character. The songs in the film mainly acted as transitions between major plot points, and while smooth, they led to drastic jumps in her character that led audiences to see very little of her gradual descent into being the “mean girl” she had detested at the start. Instead, Cady’s story felt as though it was captured in a series of snapshots that saw her quickly go from wearing a flannel and hiking boots to a miniskirt and heels. Additionally, Regina’s characterization in this adaptation lacked the dimension captured in earlier portrayals. What made Regina so intriguing in the original film was how she manipulated “The Plastics”: placing them in hierarchies, putting on an innocent and aggressively caring front, masking her actual dislike and condescension. In this remake, however, Rapp leans into a different characterization of Regina when acting. She is upfront, scary and intimidating throughout the film, which is not inherently worse than her original portrayal but inevitably loses out on the quintessential “fakeness” that makes Regina George the mean girl she is.

Having gained recognition for playing Regina previously in the Broadway musical, Rapp’s experience in the ‘Mean Girls’ franchise shined through her dramatic yet enticing performances.”

Rapp, however, perfectly captured her character through her songs, and she emerged as one of the vocal powerhouses of the entire film, starting with her entrance in “Meet the Plastics.” Having gained recognition for playing Regina previously in the Broadway musical, Rapp’s experience in the “Mean Girls” franchise shined through her dramatic yet enticing performances of “Someone Gets Hurt” and “World Burn,” where she was able to channel Regina’s deceptive and rageful qualities just through her voice. Spivey and Cravalho also served as a dynamic duo that brought both comedic relief when necessary and strong vocals to the film’s soundtrack, especially in the chaotic number “Apex Predator.” A particularly notable change from the original was Janis’s decision to attend the Spring Fling with another girl, which not only felt more authentic to her story but also helped cultivate a sense of closure with her character missing from the original. 

The 2024 remake was an entertaining watch featuring a diverse and talented cast of actors, but it ultimately suffered from the fallout of trying to adapt a musical into a film while simultaneously paying homage to the original movie. Although nostalgic and entertaining, the quality of the adaptation neither truly compares to the iconic 2004 film’s plot development nor the Broadway musical’s more fitting rendition of the songs featured. 

Are you planning on watching “Mean Girls”? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Contributor
Julia Kim
Julia Kim, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Senior Julia Kim is the co-editor-in-chief and Op/Ed editor for Southpaw and Bearing News. They are also co-president of Ethics Bowl and volunteer as a writer for The Xinsheng Project. In their free time, Julia likes to listen to music, read books and learn K-Pop dances.

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