Mean Girls Review: Tina Fey’s Story Crushes Again With A Musical Twist

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Written By Maya Cantina

Every few years, a coming of age comedy is released that ends up becoming a synopsis for the times and a lasting presence in pop culture. Mark Waters’ Mean Girls from 2004 is a film of that variety and is arguably one of the best teen movies of all time. We’ve been quoting it for years, and the franchise eventually expanded into a Broadway musical. That stage show has now been adapted as a feature with a new Mean Girls flick, and it’s an excellent combination of the previous two incarnations. 

Mean Girls

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Release Date: January 12, 2024
Directed By: Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr.
Written By: Tina Fey
Starring: Renee Rapp, Angourie Rice, Auliʻi Cravalho, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, and Christopher Briney
Rating: PG-13 for sexual material, strong language, and teen drinking
Runtime: 112 minutes

Just like the OG feature, Mean Girls follows Cady Heron (Angourie Rice), who goes from being homeschooled in Africa to being thrown into the drama of high school in America. She’s quickly befriended by a group of popular girls called The Plastics, and begins to go down a path of sabotage, crap talking, and partying. This time, however, the stakes are changed, and the cast occasionally breaks out into song throughout the movie’s 112-minute runtime. Writer Tina Fey crushed it again with the new take on the modern classic and has adapted this beloved story for a new generation of moviegoers (plus all of us original fans). 

Tina Fey is everywhere in this production, writing the script for this new Mean Girls while also reprising her role as Ms. Norbury. She also wrote the book and lyrics for the stage musical, and the songs are written by her husband, Jeff Richmond, who earned a Tony nomination. This new Mean Girls feels super fresh while also delivering what the fandom wants. 

Mean Girls delivers for hardcore fans in surprising ways.

One can’t understate just how iconic the original Mean Girls is, with the movie’s endless quotable lines still very much in the pop culture lexicon. As such, there are some seriously big shoes for this new musical movie to fill. Fortunately, Fey and directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. understood this and have found ways to surprise even the biggest Mean Girls obsessives.

Obviously the musical numbers are one way in which things are different than the last Mean Girls film, but the new script is also full of fun variations that are going to keep fans on their toes. Fey purposefully dips where the OG weaves and finds ways to subvert expectations and change up even some of the most quotable lines. Don’t worry, “She doesn’t even go here” and “You go Glen Coco” are still very much included… but they come alongside plenty of surprises. And that includes a cameo or two that is sure to get big audience reactions. 

 The cast of Mean Girls kills, especially Renee Rapp

Another reason why the 2004 Mean Girls movie was such a success because was the performances were truly outstanding. I’m of the opinion that Rachel McAdam’s take on Regina George was worthy of an Oscar nomination. Luckily, an outstanding ensemble was assembled for the new Mean Girls, with the actors artfully delivering Fey’s lines and belting their hearts out during the musical numbers.  

While Renee Rapp has the biggest shoes to fill as Regina, she luckily had a leg up on the rest of the ensemble, having previously played the role on Broadway. The recording artist/actress knows this character inside and out and finds a way to put her own sinister spin on the queen bee. 

More outstanding performances come from Moana herself Auliʻi Cravalho as Janice, who sounds truly heavenly throughout her songs. Broadway star Jaquel Spivey matches Cravalho’s energy perfectly as bestie Damian, and their scenes together consistently deliver. Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, and Jon Hamm also really bring it in their small but memorable roles.  

Mean Girls offers the perfect amount of musical numbers.

Adapting stage musicals for film is usually quite tricky, mostly because there’s a discrepancy in length. In order to fit into the length of a movie, at least a few songs are usually cut (typically to the dismay of the hardcore fandom). While this has set back some projects like Dear Evan Hansen and In The Heights, the new Mean Girls movie features the perfect amount of musical numbers for the the story.

Since the new Mean Girls‘ runtime is just 112-minutes long (as opposed to the Broadway show, which lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes and featured an intermission), Tina Fey and company cut around nine songs for the new movie, keeping nothing but the hits for the film adaptation. Even as a fan of the stage musical, I barely noticed the missing tracks.

Mean Girls is a musical triumph. It’s the perfect blend of old and new, full of outrageous performances, and a killer script by Tina Fey. In short: it’s all very, very grool. 

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