‘Mean Girls’ Hits All the Right Musical Notes for a New Generation (Review)

by | Jan 11, 2024


The “Plastics” get a glow up in this sweet, often entertaining musical. 

Like the 2022 smash hit Smile, Mean Girls was first destined to premiere on Paramount’s streaming service Paramount+. But thankfully, like Smile, the studio made the smart decision to release this musical in theaters first. January is often seen as a “dump” month for studios; however, in recent years that has changed. And with 2024 looking less promising than 2023 in terms of the number of films we’ll see throughout the year, Mean Girls kicks off the year in film in an upbeat mood. Sure, this film plays many of the same story beats as the 2004 version that catapulted the careers of Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. But by modernizing the story for our current generation and offering plenty of catchy musical numbers, this Mean Girls never loses sight what makes North Shore High School such a memorable location in the pantheon of high school comedies.  

After being homeschooled in Africa all her life with her mom (Jenna Fischer), Cady (Angourie Rice) enrolls at North Shore High School back in the states. Looking for new friends, she soon gets close with Janis (Auli’I Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey). However, she soon gets entangled with the “Plastics,” led by Regina (Renee Rapp), who has the school in the palm of her hand. With the arrival of Cady, everything changes at North Shore.  

Again, this film follows many of the same themes as the 2004 film. However, many of the moments you might be familiar with are accompanied by musical numbers here, and when the music hits, it’s the highlight of the whole shebang. Of course, when things slow down and get dramatic the film does tend to drift and, as a result, become less interesting. But there aren’t many of those moments, and they’re easy to ignore, thanks to most of the cast shining at any given moment.  

It’s difficult not to keep comparing this film to the 2004 version, but most of the cast is this rendering is close to being on par with the first group. Stepping into the pink heels that go with the role once played by Lindsay Lohan’s Cady, Angourie Rice does a good job leading the bulk of this film; she certainly will be a name to watch in Hollywood in the coming years. Cady’s two friends, played by Auli’I Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey, are particularly great and are the funniest people in the entire film. And while we could talk about how other cast members are good or how two of the “Plastics” are fine (Avantika Vandanapu and Bebe Wood), it’s the main “Plastic” played, by Renee Rapp, who stands out in this new adaptation. Getting her start in The Sex Lives of College Girls, the excellent show on Max, she charts a new, arguably more sinister path as Regina that ups Rachel McAdams’ performance in the same role. Whether it’s her vocals or acting in general, Rapp has the makings of a star and is certain to be the main topic of discussion amongst everyone leaving the theater.   

Sure, this Mean Girls could have been closer to 90 minutes rather than running almost two hours. And at the same time, it could have used more Coach Carr, played nicely by Jon Hamm, who is a supremely underrated talent when it comes to the comedy genre. But it’s hard to deny how sweet, entertaining, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny this film is when seeing it with a crowd at the theater. Tina Fey wrote the screenplay for the 2004 film and this new version (along with revisiting her math teacher role as well), and she shows here that she’s not only still relevant, but also how vital her humor and entertainment are in genres this film highlights—musicals and comedies–that seem to be in danger of becoming dying breeds. If there’s one thing the infamous “Burn Book” could use, it’s terminology that outlines why all movie studios are stupid for making fewer films in both these genres. Thankfully however, Mean Girls gives us a little of both, and in the process, also gives us hope.



(out of five stars)