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Review: ‘Mean Girls’ is a Fun, Funny and Totally Fetch Companion Piece to the 2004 Fan Favorite

January 10, 2024Ben MK

It's rare for a movie to be as beloved and as relevant two decades later as the day it was first released. However, that's exactly what happened with Mean Girls, the 2004 comedy based on Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 book, Queen Bees and Wannabes. The film that helped make Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried household names, it has not only endeared itself to moviegoers, it also spawned a hit Broadway musical. And now, things have come full circle, as directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. bring a new, sing-along-worthy vision of the fan favorite to the big screen.

Set once again at North Shore High School, the story follows Cady Heron (Angourie Rice), a mathematically gifted and unlucky-in-love teenager who has spent most of her life being home-schooled by her mom (Jenna Fischer) in Kenya, but who has now returned to America, where she suddenly finds herself a fish out of water among her new classmates. Taken under the flamboyant wing of social outcasts Janis 'Imi'ike (Auli'i Cravalho) and Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey), Cady quickly learns about the various student cliques, and how to navigate and survive the day-to-day at North Shore, especially when it comes to the trio of teen queen royalty known as the Plastics. But when the Plastics' ruthless leader, Regina George (Reneé Rapp), decides to invite Cady to join their group, it sets the stage for a stunning turn of events that will forever alter the balance of power among the student population.

Invited into Regina's inner circle, Cady joins fellow Plastics Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Wood) and Karen Shetty (Avantika), a pair of hangers-on whose adoration for Regina is only matched by their fear of being included in her notorious Burn Book, a scandalous tome with a slanderous remark from virtually every other girl at North Shore. However, when Cady falls for Regina's ex-boyfriend, football player Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), she begins to realize just how catty Regina can truly be. Forced to take control of the situation, Cady teams up with Janis and Damian to launch an all-out offensive against Regina, by trying to reverse her reputation as the school's most beautiful and fashion-forward student. But will their attempt at dethroning North Shore's reigning queen bee succeed? Or will it backfire on them so spectacularly that they'll all be collateral damage?

Arriving exactly 20 years after the original, Mean Girls benefits from Tina Fey's return as both screenwriter and Cady's math teacher, Ms. Norbury. And while the result doesn't stray far from its predecessor, it's definitely enough of a twist to classify this 2024 iteration as more of a companion piece rather than a remake. From the inclusion of toe-tapping musical numbers from the Broadway version to the revamped cast, there's plenty to keep viewers smiling. And considering that the last big Hollywood musical about high school was the critically maligned Dear Evan Hansen, there's no question that Mean Girls understands both its brand and its audience.

It all adds up to a fun, funny and totally fetch time at the movies. Still, both longtime fans and newcomers alike would do well not to lose sight of the underlying subject matter and the importance of the film's message about how we treat one another. After all, as the movie's catchy opening song says, mean is easier than nice. And though mean can take you far, just like it did back in 2004, this Mean Girls will make you think twice.

Mean Girls releases January 12th, 2024 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for sexual material, strong language, and teen drinking. Its runtime is 1 hr. 52 min.

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