‘Mean Girls’ Musical Film: A Double-Edged Ode to High School

In the contemporary landscape of movie musicals, often reluctant to embrace their musical essence, ‘Mean Girls’ negotiates this trend with a nuanced blend of success and awkwardness. The reincarnation of the beloved 2004 film into a fresh adaptation delivers moments of excitement and stiltedness, ultimately presenting an intelligent take on the original material.

The film truly comes into its own when it treats the 2004 version as a source of inspiration rather than a rigid template. While the fundamental plot contours remain familiar, injecting new elements, particularly the incorporation of musical numbers by Tina Fey, Nell Benjamin, and Jeff Richmond, breathes new life into the narrative. The film’s success lies in its ability to sidestep the trap of a paint-by-numbers retelling, thanks to distinctive performance choices and inventive additions to the storyline.

Set within the halls of North Shore High School, the narrative follows Cady Heron’s challenges as she navigates the intricacies of high school social dynamics after returning from years in Kenya. Regina George, the leader of the Plastics, assumes the roles of both ally and adversary in a plot designed to disrupt the established hierarchy.

Directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. wholeheartedly embrace the musical format, maintaining a fluid camera style and infusing the choreography with personality. The film shines when it deviates from the original’s blueprint, allowing characters like Damian and Karen to showcase their personalities in fresh and entertaining ways.

However, the film stumbles when tethered to obligatory nods to the 2004 version. Some recycled punchlines feel forced and disrupt the natural flow of the movie, while pacing becomes a challenge as musical numbers occasionally interrupt the narrative’s momentum.

The decision to remove the original Cady’s voice-over and pivot to Janis and Damian as de facto narrators proves a strategic choice. Yet, Regina’s character arc, portrayed by Reneé Rapp, feels overloaded with extra songs, disturbing the delicate balance achieved in the original film.

Introducing new adult characters, portrayed by seasoned performers such as Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Jenna Fischer, and Busy Philipps, injects a fresh perspective into the narrative. These additions, coupled with a contemporary take on burn book culture, contribute to the film’s relevance in the landscape of 2024.

While the impact of the musical numbers varies, the film’s overall approach successfully rejects mere nostalgia, ensuring it doesn’t rely solely on past glories. Despite facing several challenges, the new “Mean Girls” manages to navigate and overcome many hurdles, providing a reimagining that, while not entirely necessary, adeptly avoids overstaying its welcome.

 ‘Mean Girls’ embraces change with mixed results, offering a double-edged ode to the tumultuous landscape of high school life. With its ability to strike a delicate balance between homage and innovation, the film is a tribute to the original and a fresh exploration of timeless high school dynamics. It just isn’t perfect in its delivery, but the cast shines.

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