By Carter James
Did cancel culture get to Tina Fey?
This question isn’t to say I’m trying to imbue culture war nonsense into my review, but things feel…off. I get changing offensive material for modern audiences, but, with “Mean Girls,” the slate has been wiped clean. There have been far worse remakes in the world, especially in the past few years, but with the musical adaptation of “Mean Girls,” the weird starts to outweigh the good.
Miraculously, the film is hilarious. It’s crazy how sanitized it is, yet basically copies the original film’s homework. I know I’m nostalgia-blinded, but no amount of nostalgia can take away the fact that it’s a disservice we lost “boo you whore.” What replaces this, and the many iconic moments, are the musical numbers, and that’s an entirely different issue.
You can go crazy, fantastical, grand—that’s the point of a musical—but the creative team went half measure instead. The music is fine. Not punchy, but not bad, just in the middle. They’re good listens, but they could be great listens. The vocal performances are good, besides one massive exception. The choreography and visuals are mostly on autopilot. What’s crazy is that there’s 35 minutes of music in a nearly 2-hour musical.
Where the film shines the most as a musical is when Regina George is singing. Renee Rapp is the best part of the film. Easily. She has the showstopping numbers, the most effort put into her songs and even the filmmaking takes a massive upgrade when she has a song. It’s blatantly clear that this is a vehicle movie for her. They lean so heavily into putting her on a pedestal that the literal aspect ratio will change to 2.39:1, the one with black bars, when Rapp has her number.
Going back to the “one massive exception” in terms of vocal performances, Angourie Rice cannot sing. She’s a great actor, and perfectly cast for a modern-day Cady Heron, but we’re getting Emma Watson in “Beauty in the Beast” levels of bad, which is more disappointing when her co-stars are singing circles around her.
The supporting cast is crazy good. Auli’i Cravalho delivers as Janice. Jaquel Spicey is hilarious and impressive as Damian. Avantika and Bebe Wood are scene stealers as our favorite Plastics, Karen and Gretchen. Now, imagine if there was a real effort to deliver something different and fresh with a modern-day adaptation. All this talent starts to go to waste when you realize this is a toothless remake that overcorrects past mistakes.
Giving credit where credit is due, this movie doesn’t fall into the Gen Z trap. What I call the Gen Z trap is where movies made for our generation rely too heavily on trends and social media to relate to us. Social media is used, but it’s mostly realistic and natural. When it borders on ridiculousness, it’s in the context of the ridiculous nature of North Shore High School. This is great because I would’ve audibly groaned if I were being pandered to.
With my many, many complaints about the weird nature of “Mean Girls,” I had a ton of fun. Despite the odds, I laughed a ton. The musical numbers were enough to be fun. Rapp’s Regina numbers are crazy, like you’re watching another film. And maybe it’sbecause I listened to the original cast recording after seeing this, but I enjoy the film soundtrack more, honestly. Even with what very little Fey gives her cast this time, it does not stop them for a moment.
“Mean Girls” runs on autopilot. The edgy charm is diluted into next to nothing. You could basically say it’s almost the same film but watered down. With that, the movie is still quite fun. The passable and good enough musical numbers keep you engaged. The strong cast brings life where life shouldn’t be. What’s left of the comedy still works and works well. The clear attempt to make this a star vehicle for Rapp works incredibly well because this is her film. I know that “Mean Girls” would have to change for modern audiences, and needed to in some respects, but what was given is too much of a correction.