The Reel Review
Tina Fey blows the dust off her 2004 comedy classic about high school cliques and bullying, in this adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical, itself based on her charming original film as sourced from Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 book “Queen Bees and Wannabes.” Angourie Rice and Renée Repp, reprising her Broadway role of Regina George, star in this musical/comedy.
Yes, this Mean Girls is a musical – and not a good one. A terrific Auli’i Cravalho (Darby and the Dead, Moana) and Tony Award nominee Jaquel Spivey (A Strange Loop) easily steal the show as Cady’s outcast friends, Janis and Damian. They are hilarious, fun to watch and even have a great opening production number – “Cautionary Tale.” But beyond that, the story is a rushed, box-ticking Cliffs Notes of the original, without the context, likable characters or subversive humor needed to connect with the audience. Are we really supposed to believe Cady and her new friends are besties after a single meeting? Rice (Honor Society, Mare of Easttown), who has been so good in other projects, is watered down to the point of being a really boring Cady. Not fetch. Not even a little.
Tina Fey and Tim Meadows reprise their roles as math teacher Ms. Norbury and Principal Duvall, but other than parroting a couple of key scenes from the original, they have precious little screen time due to the shoehorning in of production numbers that are as forgettable as the girls who appear as The Plastics. Ashley Park and Jon Hamm have blink-and-you-miss-it appearances as the French teacher and Coach Carr, with an annoyingly over-the-top Busy Philipps as Regina’s “cool mom” and an underutilized Jenna Fischer as Cady’s mom. By trying to be everything to all people – nostalgic for diehard fans and entertaining for a younger, short attention spanned, social media-obsessed Gen Z – this bland, sanitized version of the classic lacks the edge or soul to please anyone. For a more refreshing companion piece to the original Mean Girls, watch Rice in the infinitely more entertaining Honor Society instead.
• Mean Girls (2024) originally was planned as an exclusively streaming-only release on Paramount+,
• Originally Tina Fey planned to direct, but ultimately decided against it, leaving it to film directing newbies Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr.
• Mean Girls (2024) was filmed at Mater Dei, a closed high school in Middletown, New Jersey.