On Wednesdays We Make Bad Movies

By Angus McNellie 

January 22, 2024
Angourie Rice plays Cady Heron, Bebe Wood plays Gretchen Wieners and Avantika plays Karen Shetty in Mean Girls from Paramount Pictures. (Photo credit: Jojo Whilden/Paramount © 2023 Paramount Pictures.)

“Mean Girls” is a y2k classic, with a modern and musical twist, starring Angourie Rice and Reneé Rapp. This film is a love letter to the original “Mean Girls" movie, yet it disappointed die hard fans of the musical adaptation. Unique casting choices, product placement, and numerous social media quips have left many audience members, including myself, stunned. Nevertheless, the film delivers the same message as the original in its own unique and musical way.

Angourie Rice plays the role of Cady Heron, the protagonist of the story. While Rice would’ve made a sufficient enough Cady in a regular film adaptation, her casting as a singer is questionable. Rice’s singing is by no means poor; she has a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice akin to that of a Disney princess- but that’s exactly the problem. Cady’s songs are not meant to be treated delicately, they are bold, wild, and belty, something Rice failed to convey. Rice’s casting makes me question if no other actresses were available to play the role of Cady. Cady’s signature solo, “Stupid With Love” has been praised as one of the highlights of the original Broadway show, Erika Henningson’s performance is frantic, crazy, and full of energy. The song received a complete makeover for the film that was not well received. Many stated that it was too slow paced, and Rice sang the song without even a hint of passion. Many other tracks from the film have received similar critiques, centered around Rice’s lackluster singing. It’s clear that many of the changes made to the songs were built around Rice’s vocal weaknesses. While Rice may have delivered a disappointing performance, other actors did not fail to impress.

Reneé Rapp gave a striking performance as Regina George, a role she had previously played on Broadway. Portraying a character as infamous as Regina George is a daunting task that Rapp executed with ease. Rapp’s vocals are easily the highlight of the movie, and her version of “World Burn” puts the rest of the soundtrack to shame. While Rapp’s experience with the role gave her more familiarity with the character and her songs, it’s clear that she was passionate about the film and her inclusion. 

Putting the cast aside, this movie is a love letter to the original “Mean Girls” film. The portrayal of the characters, as well as the return of some of the original actors such as Tina Fey and Lindsay Lohan give honor to the original film. While the movie gives great respect to the original, it’s rather disappointing compared to the musical. Nearly all of the songs have been stripped of their backing instrumentals, resulting in the songs sounding shallow and void of feeling. Additionally, some songs were entirely reworked, parts were reassigned or removed entirely, and choreography was comparable to low-effort 2018 TikTok dances. The movie felt less like the original “Mean Girls” musical, and more like a Disney Channel original. Another interesting aspect is the ridiculous amount of product placement in the movie. In nearly every scene, an Elf makeup product could easily be seen within the frame, often taking your attention away from the actual plot. Not to mention the intense modernization of the movie. Multiple scenes were filmed to appear as videos published on social media, and some scenes were just meme compilations, which were actually pretty amusing.

In conclusion, this musical adaptation was pretty disappointing. Unique casting choices, cringey modernization, and product placement ultimately killed the nostalgic feeling for both musical and movie fans. While some may find the movie to be an enjoyable experience, I was unable to. The film felt like a stale, soulless, and static rendition of the beloved story. The project felt void of passion, with the exception of a few actors. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this film, or watch it again unless some form of compensation was involved.