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Musical theater and movies: a Mean Girls (2024) review from two perspectives

Aliyah Shamatta and Laken Kincaid describe their experience seeing Mean Girls (2024) from two differing perspectives.

“Mean Girls,” originally released in 2004, has been a cultural phenomenon for the past two decades. Not only has it inspired a slew of catchphrases and phenomena (see “that’s so fetch!” and “on Wednesdays we wear pink”) but it also encouraged the launch of a film-to-stage adaptation on Broadway appropriately named “Mean Girls: The Musical.” With the same plot, with added songs and dances for flavor, many fans of the original work also appreciated the primary story that was translated through the reworked medium.

Riding off of the love for both the movie and the production, Tina Fey remastered her famed flick with “Mean Girls (2024)” which, unlike its initial predecessor, is a musical-to-movie adaptation that features the tracks from Broadway while encapsulating the high school feel that most 2000s movies provide. However, some supporters of both the musical and the original film have evolved into detractors with the fresh rendition falling slightly flat both in tone and at the box offices.

Yet, does this negativity only stem from the diehard Broadway fans, or does it perforate to all viewers in the theater? The Carroll News has recognized that this difference in perspective could come down to who knows the stage soundtrack and who doesn’t. Because of this, this review consists of two perspectives: someone who has seen the musical and someone who has not. 

Aliyah Shammata ‘24’s review, someone who has not seen the musical:

Growing up, I always wore pink on Wednesdays and sweatpants on Fridays. While my friend group did not call ourselves “The Plastics,” our clique agenda stayed high in hopes of making the true high school experience out of a movie like “Mean Girls.” After a tremendous amount of trailers and clips of the new movie on TikTok, I knew I had to see what the hype was about. 

Not much had changed from the original 2004 movie to the 2024 rendition besides the fact that during the opening scene, I realized that I was in for a musical and not just a remake. What I enjoyed the most, however, was that many of the jokes throughout the movie were taken from the original and still brought out a good laugh. Tina Fey, the writer and director of both films, kept her quick-witted humorous jokes and lighthearted message throughout the movie. I was a bit skeptical at first, but once Regina George came on screen, my thoughts completely changed. Regina’s opening song immediately caught my attention with the dim lights and slow pan to show her character. From this point on, I was captivated for the entire runtime of the movie. 

It is safe to say that the movie still has the cultural impact that it had in the original back in 2004, just this time with music. As someone who went into the movie not knowing what to expect, I let out a slight groan once they started singing and dancing. To my surprise, the only complaint I had with the movie was Cady Heron. Now I am not a musical-to-movie expert, but not only did I feel like she severely lacked emotion in her singing, but I physically could not listen to “Stupid With Love” without going on my phone in hopes of fast forwarding the cringe session of that part in the movie. Once you are past the cringe-worthy middle school crush scene, and an odd song with people dancing like zoo animals, the film picks up with drama and a fast-paced plotline.

I think this film shows a different style than the original when it comes to the casting. I truly appreciated each actor and actress portraying their character in their own way. Regina was made out to be a villain that still had redeeming qualities, Gretchen was the friend that snapped once her trust was broken, Cady showed just how easily you can be manipulated in social norms of the high school culture, and so on. In the original, you had a specific audience who could relate to the Plastics. This time around there were more diverse casting choices that appealed to many audiences and gave those who might have not felt represented in the original a chance to feel connected this time around. 

Overall, I would say that this movie-to-musical-to-movie was great and kept the storyline the same with minor changes. The storyline was fast-paced, and the actors portrayed their characters in ways that fit while sticking with the original idea and landing each joke with a laugh. I had not listened to the musical prior to watching the movie, but I do believe that each actor gave their best performance with just small critiques here and there. I know that others might not feel the same way, but I would watch this movie again. 

Laken Kincaid ‘24’s review, someone who has seen the musical:

As someone who grew up watching “slime tutorials,” (theater kid speak for Broadway bootlegs) on YouTube, I never really shirk away from musical-to-movie adaptations. To me, they are a new point of accessibility for a young and potentially less wealthy audience, one of which cannot afford front row seats at a matinee show. Playbills and soundtracks only do so much compared to actually watching the actors perform in their natural habitat.

I will admit that I do personally prefer stage recordings like Disney+’s “Hamilton” or Netflix’s “Shrek: The Musical” rather than straight shot adaptations like “In The Heights” or “Into the Woods.” This made “Mean Girls (2024)” even more peculiar to me, as it was not just a musical-to-movie adaptation, but a movie-to musical-back to movie journey. If that sentence gave you whiplash, just wait until you watch the film for yourself.

Going into the theater, I was extremely excited albeit slightly hesitant. The Broadway cast has done a fantastic job representing this show for the last six years and it would be hard to live up to their acclaim. But, I did have a generous amount of hope since Reneé Rapp, the Broadway show’s Regina George from 2019-2020 and the love of my life, was cast as the queen bee Regina George. I also recognized Auli’i Cravalho on the cast list for Janis Sarkisian, which made me even more intrigued. 

Needless to say, both of those actresses did a flawless job and I would rewatch the movie just to see their performances again. Honestly, that goes for a lot of the cast, including Tony winner Jaquel Spivey (who plays the “too gay to function” icon Damien Hubbard) and Avantika Vandanapu (who embodied our ditzy queen Karen Shetty). All of their voices stunned me and I give mad props to them.

Despite these great wins, there were a few pitfalls with the film. Some easy shots include the costuming (this article from Fizzy Mag articulates this better than I ever could) and how many of the songs from the musical were either revamped or cut entirely from the final version. Heck, Christopher Briney who plays Aaron Samuels did not even have to sing at his audition although Samuels has multiple features on the Broadway discography! Yet, my biggest critique comes down to the performance given by Angourie Rice who played Cady Heron.

On Broadway, Heron has multiple ballads with scales and power notes. But when we watch the movie, her songs have been almost entirely reworked to minimize her voice with many of the lines going to Regina or Janis. I do not blame the directors for this choice, though, because when Rice does try to hold a tune, it doesn’t quite work in her favor. In layman’s terms, she sounds like me when I am trying to finish an assignment in haste and start singing show tunes out of stress. These strained harmonies, coupled with how “Stupid with Love’s” score was reimagined to sound like a kitschy LoFi YouTube video, put a foul taste in my mouth.

Overall, I did enjoy the movie. However, I wish they would have cast a different actress for Cady. Don’t get me wrong, Rice is extremely talented, perhaps just not in a dynamic mezzo soprano way. Following in the steps of Erika Henningsen and Sabrina Carpenter is undoubtedly tricky, and it sets a high bar to rise to in front of the cameras. Even with Rapp as carry-over talent and other actors holding the film up on crutches, these flat notes and laissez-faire execution hold “Mean Girls (2024)” back from reaching the true potential it had. 

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About the Contributors
Laken Kincaid
Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief
Laken Kincaid is the Editor-in-Chief for The Carroll News from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a senior at John Carroll University who is double majoring in political science and communications (digital media) and minoring in leadership development. Laken has written for The Carroll News since the start of their freshman year and has previously served as a staff reporter, campus section editor and managing editor of the paper. They have received 18 Best of SNO awards, a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for Region 4 and two honorable mentions from the College Media Association. They have also been recognized by universities like Georgetown for their investigative reports. Additionally, they also write political satire for The Hilltop Show and feature stories on global poverty for The Borgen Project. In addition to their involvement with The Carroll News, Laken is involved with the Kappa Delta sorority, the speech and debate team, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Improv club and other organizations. They also serve as the news director for WJCU 88.7, John Carroll's own radio station, and as the president for John Carroll's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.  Laken also started their own national nonprofit organization known as Art with the Elderly which they have won the President's Volunteer Service Award and the Humanity Rising Award for. When not writing, Laken can be found doing graphic design for their internship with Union Home Mortgage or working as a resident assistant and peer learning facilitator on campus. Laken also enjoys skiing and watching true crime documentaries. In the future, Laken hopes to become a political journalist for a national news organization or to be a campaign commercial editor for politicians. To contact Laken, email them at [email protected].
Aliyah Shamatta
Aliyah Shamatta, Multimedia: Visual and Technical Editor
Aliyah Shamatta is a senior from Parma, Ohio. They are a Communications major with a concentration in Digital Media and a double minor in Leadership development and Peace, Justice, & Human Rights. Around campus, you can find Aliyah being involved with WJCU as the Social Media Director, hosting their genre show “Do It For The B-sides”, and being a heights DJ. Other involvements include being in the Kappa Delta sorority, Orientation Leader, and a class of 2024 senator. From Halloween to horror, Aliyah loves anything that is spooky-related. Outside of school, you can find them taking daring adventures, playing video games, graphic design, and painting while watching the sunset. In their future, they want to work with companies' social media accounts and have a side broadcasting career.

Comments (1)

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    Lonell FletcherJan 26, 2024 at 8:27 pm

    Why wouldn’t you blame the directors? They cast her. If she didn’t have the goods musically, why did they go with her? Blame the directors. Blame them hard.