Mean Girls originated as a movie in 2004, transitioned to a Broadway as a musical in 2018, and again reaches the screen in 2024, this time as an aggressively upbeat take on the musical version.
If a movie could survive on energy alone, the latest edition of Mean Girls might be a triumph. Co-directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. and an eager cast bounce their way through a string of forgettable tunes while hitting many of the plot points that distinguished the original.
You know the drill: High school girls can be mean as wasps but eventually learn something about tolerance and acceptance. Feathers will be ruffled before being smoothed.
Arriving 20 years after the original, this Mean Girls seems to be relying more on fan familiarity than on any breakthroughs.
Renee Rapp, a veteran of the Broadway production, plays Regina, the teen queen who heads The Plastics, a trio of in-crowd trendsetters that dominates the social life of North Shore High School.
Angourie Rice portrays Cady Heron, the ostensible lead. Newbie Cady is drawn into the elite inner sanctum, so much so that she abandons the outsider friends (Auli'i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey) who readily accepted her and couldn't care less about the school's rigid social dynamics.
Christopher Briney portrays Aaron, the high school's main hunk, Regina's ex and the heartthrob Cody hopes to land. He's less a character than an excuse to push the plot here and there.
Busy Phillips, as Regina's mom, and Tim Meadows, as the school's principal, hardly pierce the teen tumult. Jon Hamm gives an eye-blink of a performance as a health teacher.
Tina Fey reprises her role as a teacher of AP calculus. Fey, who co-wrote the original and who wrote this edition, doesn't exactly sparkle, either.
A game cast works hard but the much of the sting of the original has evaporated and as each new tune emerged, I found myself vainly hoping for a showstopper.
The closet we get is Cravalho's rendition of I'd Rather Be Me, an obligatory ode to individuality.
No ordinary high school, North Shore, as it turns out, has a high tolerance for displays of cleavage, and Rapp and some of the other cast members look a bit long in the tooth to be playing teenagers.
An overly carbonated spritzer of a movie, Mean Girls* isn't likely to earn an honored place in the big-screen musical canon. I'd say more about the music if I could remember it. But like much of the movie, it was gone soon after I left the parking lot.
In an earlier version of this review, I wrote Mean Streets instead of Mean Girls in the final paragraph. A reader alerted me to this embarrassing slip. What was I thinking? Perhaps my brain insisted that I type the name of a movie that I often rewatch and which has become a touchstone for me. Sometimes, the fingers betray the mind. In any event, pardon me while I go in search of a sword on which to fall.