”Mean Girls” Musical Movie Inconsistently Fetching

The North Shore High School Mathletes would ace this calculation: one update of a two decade old film comedy plus one translation of its stage musical adaptation equals only a fraction of the property’s legacy entertainment value. The 2024 musical version of Mean Girls (C+), co-directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr., succeeds in delivering dollops of nostalgia and a star-is-born villain performance by Reneé Rapp as the pink terror Regina George. As a musical, though, it’s inconsistent, with the filmmakers framing production numbers awkwardly before finding their groove. Songs happen in this high school musical because characters are filming themselves on their phone or because they’re adjacent to the marching band practice room or because they’re fantasizing or because they’re describing something absurd; there are few connective threads holding all this together as an actual movie musical. It doesn’t help that the new-to-school protagonist played lowkey by Angourie Rice doesn’t get an “I want” moment and little time to establish herself before smitten with the guy in calculus class (a natural Christopher Briney) or lured in by the clique called The Plastics. Auliʻi Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey are a hoot and in great voice as the heroine’s genuine friends; reprising roles from the 2004 film, Tina Fey and Tim Meadows make very little impression. There’s some awkward choreography of students behaving like African animals; like a breeze from Poomba, it swiftly clears the savanna of laughs or charm. Rapp’s vampy antihero has the most fun in her role, and there are some creative montages leveraging social media to amplify the antics. For those who loved the original film or want to revisit its sly psychology put to music, there’s some fun to be had here. But it’s largely a missed opportunity twenty years later to say something new or differently about its themes of girls trying to treat each other better to the next generation.

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