The site of Kaneland High School's student news publication.

Kaneland Krier

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The site of Kaneland High School's student news publication.

Kaneland Krier

The site of Kaneland High School's student news publication.

Kaneland Krier

Mean Girls: film’s cautionary tale

Movie musicals are nothing new, but how successful can you be when adapting a stage production to the big screen? The release of the musical Mean Girls is reminiscent of other films of a similar nature, with an example being a Dear Evan Hansen rendition of the Broadway production released in 2021. Various adaptations of popular works can create both adverse and complimentary reactions from fans as they compare the new renditions to the former counterparts.

I came into the new Mean Girls movie with a perspective that many probably have. I have seen the original Mean Girls movie from 2004, but I never watched the Broadway musical. With that in mind, I have mixed feelings towards this movie, and I am not alone in this sentiment. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score was 63%, with more than 1,000 verified ratings.

It’s impossible to compare it to the original because of how popular that one was, but the changes made from the 20-year-old movie are mostly welcome ones. For one, the casting is much more diverse, featuring non-white actors such as Avantika as Karen, Auli’i Cravalho as Janis and Jaquel Spivey as Damian. The original cast consisted of nearly exclusively white actors, making the recent release much more diverse. In addition, the overall cast performance was very strong, making for an entertaining and engaging watching experience.

Another development was the modernization of the setting. With the original movie taking place two decades ago, there would have to be some changes so the movie could align with contemporary teen culture. All of the outfits radiate the exact vibe each character is meant to have while also being in line with the more recent fashion trends.

The inclusion of major social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok and their impacts on the plot also feels natural, given the context of the movie. The overall usage of phones makes sense contextually, but the camera work is restricted. When viewing shots through a cell phone camera, the audience is stuck to one perspective and subject, limiting the overall feel of integration in the movie as it separates the viewer from the world of Mean Girls.

Also, the setting of this movie is too fun to not let the viewer have more access to it. The sets are very vibrant and appealing to look at. From Regina’s house to the high school, the setting is enjoyable. As with many other elements in this movie, the structure of the set is modernized. In the audience, you can see how everything appears clean and bright. It felt very natural and like we were actually in real places in real life.

The way crucial plot points are portrayed is yet another way the movie is enhanced. For instance, the part of the film where Damian uses dolls to tell Katie about Janis’s experience with Regina is very entertaining, much more so than the original 2004 film. Another example is when Regina reaches certain character lows, such as when she falls during the Christmas dance and is humiliated online. These shots are very dynamic and are some of the most visually interesting parts of the entire movie.

The choreography for each of the musical numbers is also lively and intriguing.

In particular, the animalistic movements during the musical number Apex Predator were hilarious, and the rigid movements in Some- one Gets Hurt set the tension between Regina and Aaron. By simply watching, you can tell a lot of care was put into the blocking and choreography of the musical numbers. Giving a little more attention to the action-filled movements, especially the background ensemble, would have been more engaging.

As for the music itself, it all sounds generic. Without any of the acting or fun visuals, the overall musicality of each song feels slightly dull. Upon leaving the theater, I couldn’t exactly recall how any of the songs sounded. That could’ve been an issue of personal taste, but the problem lies in how these songs fail to advance the movie.

With there being 13 songs, the movie often feels dragged out with musical numbers that make what would be a 30-second plot point into, at times, a five-minute one (like the number Revenge Party). In some instances, this added a positive complexity to previous simple characters like Gretchen with songs like What’s Wrong With Me. In others, though, it makes the movie feel incredibly long. Cutting some of the songs would not have made a significant difference in the end in terms of the plot and would’ve made the pacing a bit quicker, which would have kept the audience more consistently engaged.

Another criticism regarding the songs is how they were executed. It’s not a surprise that movie adaptations of musicals will utilize autotune to ensure the integrity of a musical number translates properly to the screen, but it sometimes feels overused and can make for a slightly robotic sound. The music isn’t necessarily odd for the overall pop style of the songs, but since this is a movie adaptation of a musical, the overuse of autotune makes the songs feel more like a music video.

The 2024 Mean Girls was an interesting experience, but not one that I would enjoy rewatching. For fans of the original movie, this may be a fun experience. The brief cameo of Lindsay Lohan near the end of the movie was a fun surprise for me, and it differs from the 2004 version in a generally nice way. Unfortunately, the pacing makes the movie hard to get through, which is a common affliction for films of this nature.

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