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Arts and Entertainment

Mean Girls: A Nostalgic Double Homage

By Staff Writer Tanvi Deshmukh

The highly anticipated 2024 musical-film renditionMean Girls returns to the spotlight with a fresh Gen Z makeover, continuing the fetch legacy. Released on January 12, writer Tina Fey pays double homage, celebrating both the enduring charm of the 2004 film classic and 2017 Broadway musical sensation. Originally based on Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 self-help book Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence, Mean Girls delves into the drama-filled lives of North Shore High School’s greatest evil: teenage girls.

The narrative develops as the 2004 film does, with transfer Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) navigating the change from Kenyan to American life and immersing herself in the realm of public school. Despite feeling like an outsider, Cady quickly finds solace in the welcoming arms of dynamic duo Janis  ‘Imi’ike (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey). Janis and Damian introduce her to the Plastics, the notorious clique consisting of the ditzy Karen Shetty (Avantika), submissive Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Wood), and their menacing leader, Regina George (Reneé Rapp). Cady, Janis, and Damian soon embark on a plan to avenge Janis’ resentment, aiming to dismantle the Plastics and destroy Regina.

While the film initially sets the stage reminiscent of the original Mean Girls setting and dialogue, the songs emerge abruptly, disrupting scenes rather than allowing the audience to digest the narrative. Regina first appears when Rapp sings “Meet the Plastics,” but disappointingly, Karen and Gretchen are cut from the performance and previously introduced instead. The omission may serve to emphasize Regina’s dominance, but it leaves out an iconic moment from the musical. As the songs progress, a more cohesive flow is established, particularly from when Cravalho and Spivey sing “Apex Predator” to depict Cady’s classmates as safari animals. The film finally hits its stride, incorporating catchy, upbeat songs like Avantika’s performance of “Sexy,” which includes simple yet infectious lyrics that perfectly encapsulate the bubbly essence of her character. Additionally, during the Halloween party, extras freeze midway, leaving only Regina, Cady, and their shared love interest Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney) visible in motion. This dynamic moment enhances the dramatic intensity as Rapp sings “Someone Gets Hurt,” which seamlessly transitions back to the dialogue to finish a shocking scene in the film.

As the film proceeds, Rice impressively captures Cady’s development from a sincere girl to a Plastic, but lacks the intangible appeal of her embodiment by actress Lindsay Lohan in the original 2004 film. . However, Rapp, who reprises her Broadway role as Regina,elevates the character to new heights, fulfilling Regina’s mean and intimidating demeanor but adding an extra layer of uneasiness through her facial expressions and tone that makes her truly frightening. Avantika delivers a splendid performance as well, demonstrating hilarious comedic timing as she effortlessly weaves quirky antics into her screen time. Another highlight is the beautiful on-screen chemistry between Cravalho and Spivey, each bringing depth to their characters with a fresh, modern twist. The well-chosen cast significantly contributes to the film’s success and leaves audiences with an engaging experience.

Beyond the main cast, the film features delightful cameos and iconic references that bring smiles to the audience. Returning from the original film, Lohan makes an unexpected cameo as the Mathletes Championship moderator, and Mr. Duvall(Tim Meadows) and Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) are played by the same actors. The winter talent show also includes a clever reference, as Damian shouts “Thank you, next” from the audience, a nod to Ariana Grande’s music video inspired by the scene. The allusions make the film all the more enjoyable, prompting the perfect amount of audience laughs without becoming overwhelming. The film also incorporates TikTok and YouTube snippets to show the media’s reactions after intense scenes, resonating with younger audiences by embracing the way they consume and share content. Well-known personalities like Nia Sioux, the Merrell Twins, and Megan Thee Stallion make charming appearances, appealing to a broader audience and enhancing the film’s relatability. 

Whereas the acting and references met expectations, the cast’s  costumes missed the mark. The actors were consistently dressed in what appeared to be out-of-date clothing sold at basic chain stores, evocative of the fast fashion retailer Shein, which made them look cheap instead of chic. Regina’s silver vulture Halloween party costume looked beautiful and luxurious during “Someone Gets Hurt,” yet having the Plastics in more audacious styles such as vibrant hot pink colors and fur coats could have added a unique touch. Expensive, inventive clothing would better suit the actors, especially who play the most popular girls in school, leaving the costumes as a missed opportunity to be truly outstanding and elevate the on-screen aesthetic. 

Overall, Mean Girls intertwines nostalgia with a modern twist, featuring standout performances, impressive acting, and engaging references. Despite facing setbacks in the costume department, the film ultimately delivers an entertaining and engaging experience for both fans of the original who watch with an open mind and a new generation of viewers. 

Grade: B+

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