Friday, January 12, 2024

Mean Girls - Review

 20 years later, this newest version of a now classic high school manages to capture what made the original stick so well for so long: get a good cast and have fun. Now it’s unclear where the careers of the latest cast will go, but this should serve as a great introduction to the world for many of them. Throw in some catchy melodies, in spite of some shaky lyrics, and update a few outdated story beats and you get a fun time at the movie theater, which is a rare occurrence in January. 

New student Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) gets welcomed into the top of the social food chain by an elite group of popular girls called the Plastics, ruled by the conniving queen bee Regina George (Reneé Rapp). However, when Cady makes the major misstep of falling for Regina's ex-boyfriend, she soon finds herself caught in their crosshairs.

To what will likely be a shock to far too many audience members, this is a true to the definition, full blown numbers, musical. And no, it’s not songs they just created for this remake of the 2004 film, but an adaptation of the Broadway musical from a few years back. The music itself is a mixed bag, with some songs certainly reaching that catchy status that will have you humming along, and others drawing groans for their often odd lyrical choices. Despite what the marketing may have you believe, the actual film is not ashamed of its musical status, bringing big, flashy choreography and set pieces out for almost every song, and that in and of itself is commendable.

The cast is easily the highlight of the film, with maybe one exception. Auli’i Cravalho as Janice brings the right rebellious energy, and her partner in crime Jaquel Spivey as Damien is equally as joyous to watch. However, something about the casting of Angourie Rice as Cady feels off in a way that is hard to describe. Her performance is fine, the singing is passable, but her revenge arc and eventual mean girl turn doesn’t feel believable in the way you want it to. 

Perhaps bigger than anything else though is the introduction of Reneé Rapp to the world at large. Her growing popularity online will certainly provide some recognition from part of the audience, but her performance here will secure her status as a star waiting to happen. She’s not new to the role of Regina George, having taken the spot on the Broadway production in 2019, but her screen presence here proves that she’s also cut out for Hollywood as well. There’s a reason Regina George has been the center of the marketing, and she is it. 

Not much can be said about the story that people wouldn’t know already. It’s essentially the same narrative, with a few minor upgrades to the language used and obviously outdated references, but the beats are all still there. In the end, it means this is still a crowd pleaser, and the addition of musical numbers can only improve that status. In a period of the year where so many bad films get dumped, it’s nice to have a fun time at the movies, even if it’s not gonna hit anyone like a speeding bus. 

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