Mean Girls

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Mean Girls
dir Samantha Jayne, Arturo Perez Jr
scr Tina Fey
prd Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey
with Angourie Rice, Renee Rapp, Avantika, Bebe Wood, Auli'i Cravalho, Jaquel Spivey, Christopher Briney, Tina Fey, Tim Meadows, Busy Philipps, Jenna Fischer, Jon Hamm, Lindsay Lohan
release US12.Jan.24,
UK 19.Jan.24
24/US Paramount 1h52

fey meadows philipps
See also:
Mean Girls 2004

Is it streaming?

spivey, rice and cravalho
Two decades later, Tina Fey returns to adapt the stage musical version of her 2004 hit film. And while there are plenty of clever touches, from the pointedly smart gags to updating the material for the TikTok age, the film feels is weighed down by some heavy-handed visual gimmickry, over-produced songs and a general refusal to go for the jugular. But it's also lively, funny and very pink.
After being homeschooled by her mother (Fischer) in Kenya, Cady (Rice) arrives at a Chicago high school without a clue about how class politics work. She's given a crash course by sparky outcasts Janis (Cravalho) and Damian (Spivey), then is surprised to find herself invited to join imperious cool girl Regina (Rapp) and loyal pals Karen and Gretchen (Avantika and Wood). Janis and Damian urge Cady to find out what she can about them, but when Cady falls for Regina's ex-boyfriend Aaron (Briney), things take a turn. And Cady begins to lose track of herself.
Rippling with hilarious throwaway jokes and observations, the script hasn't changed much in 20 years, but has been freshened up with references to the impact of social media on teens. This leads to lots of vertical video sequences that add new context to the story, even if it doesn't look great on a big cinema screen. The songs (by Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin) are witty and energetic, but are shot fantasy-style, with so much visual and audio augmentation that it's difficult to catch the words, or to connect them to the characters and story.

Rice has terrific presence in a complex leading role that requires her to shift into the villain of the piece at one point. Her Cady is easy to root for, especially as she creates strong chemistry with a wide variety of people around her. This ensemble of lively actors find sparky details in their characters to keep us entertained. Strangely, Fey and Meadows, reprise their enjoyable roles without much new nuance. And Philipps provides some outrageously goofy scene-chomping, although more of Hamm would have been welcome.

While the songs offer insight into the characters' thought processes, they also make the story's pacing somewhat uneven. This is perhaps because the directors stage the musical numbers so elaborately, rather than having them emerge within the scenes. But the deeper ideas are still strong, including a knowing exploration of the nature and repercussions of bullying. And it's always good to remind ourselves that saying something nasty about someone else never makes us look better.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 10.Jan.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall