Get in loser, it's reboot time in Hollywood.
If you’ve been wondering what to expect from this reboot of the beloved 2004 classic, prepare for a “Mean Girls” meets “High School Musical” experience. Obviously the basic story line remains essentially the same. But this time around, Cady Heron and her fellow classmates sing and dance their way through this coming of age story.
As is tradition, a fresh take doesn’t quite capture the same feel or essence as the original. Like most recent reboots, this one has updated it’s story line. Modernizing the clothes, phones, and dialogue to be more reflective of, and satirize, today’s cultural and social climate. However, despite a few jokes that haven’t aged all that well, a decent amount of the original’s witty one liners and wisecracks still hold up. The winks and nods paid to the 2004 film are obvious but well placed.
I thought the decision to adapt “Mean Girls” into a musical was bizarre when Tina Fey, who co-wrote and appeared in both films, announced she was creating a Broadway show adaptation. The production ultimately ran from 2017 to 2020. However this endeavor to transform “Mean Girls” into a musical ended up working much better than anticipated, both on the stage and big screen. Admittedly, the songs aren’t particularly memorable but they do add a layer of depth to the characters that was missing in the original. Though I don’t think this added depth was strictly necessary, it does open the door for some clever and creative moments.
Like most musicals, many of the character introductions are done through song. Most notably, the introduction of Regina George played by Renee Rapp, reprising her role from the Broadway stage production. Dressed in leather from head to toe, the iconic antagonist greets us with the opening line “My name is Regina George, and I am a massive deal,” in the song “Meet the Plastics”. Everything in this particular sequence, from the lyrics, to the editing and cinematography, does an excellent job encapsulating the essence of Regina as a character. Despite the other musical numbers not being quite as impactful, almost all of them successfully highlight key moments and plot points.
Despite this new and entertaining element, one song in particular demonstrates a problem that almost every Hollywood coming of age film suffers from. Failing to adjust the ages of the characters or adjust the story line when the two no longer coincide. About halfway through the film Karen, played by Avantika Vandanapu, who’s one of The Plastics performs the song “Sexy”. Needless to say, everything in this Halloween themed number, especially the costumes, embodies the song’s title. Even though this sequence is primarily satirical, any humor is pretty much immediately undercut once the film reminds you these characters are in high school. Once noticed, the discrepancies between the ages being portrayed, how the characters are being presented, and the actual ages of the actors stick out like a sore thumb.
One of the biggest differences between the original and this reboot is the substantially increased sexualization of Cady, Regina, and The Plastics. Since these girls are meant to be in high school the first film portrayed them as being merely “hot” or very attractive. The clothes they wore and how they expressed themselves was relatively aligned with the characters ages and the film’s target demographic. In this reboot all attempts at subtle sexiness have gone completely out the window. The vast majority of the clothing, make up, and mannerisms are a visceral reminder that the actors are in their twenties. All while the film ceases to simultaneously ask you to believe they are in high school. This not only makes the film a bit uncomfortable at times, but also raises questions about the intended target demographic.
Despite this somewhat glaring flaw, “Mean Girls” makes the most of recreating the story for modern audiences. Though I didn’t think so at first, the incorporation of smart phones and social media works very well and adds to the overall story line rather than detracting from it.
Overall, “Mean Girls” 2024 seems to be aimed primarily at giving a boost of nostalgia to those who loved the original and less so towards those looking to experience the story for the first time. So as always, you can’t sit with us.