Review: “Mean Girls” adaptation surprisingly fun musical remake

Jaquel Spivey, Angourie Rice, and Auli’i Cravalho in Mean Girls (Courtesy/Paramount Pictures)

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert once opined that Hollywood shouldn’t be in the business of remaking great or even good movies of the past, but rather putting a new spin on its bad films if it can’t come up with an original story.

It’s a novel thought that has merit, but the reality when financing a film is that studios are looking for as sure of a bet as they can find. That’s why we have so many sequels, continuing series, and, yes, remakes.

You better believe if the bigwigs at Universal Pictures thought that they could squeeze out a sequel for “Oppenheimer” from director Christopher Nolan, it would be greenlit in a second. There already is talk of a Barbie sequel from Warner Bros.

So it’s no real surprise that “Mean Girls” an adaption of the musical, which was an adaption of the 2004 movie that starred Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert opens today in theaters.

It has been 20 years since the original debuted and became a spicy hit for writer/co-star Tina Fey and director Mark Waters. Why not milk the nouveau classic for another go?

And the result is solid. I enjoyed revisiting the parable of peer pressure which is beat for beat virtually the same as the original, just with tunes.

The new cast is appealing with Angourie Rice, playing Cady Heron, the new girl of the title as she negotiates attending a new high school with all its gossip, cliques, and rude tricks from mean girls Regina (Renee’ Rapp), Grethen (Bebe Wood), and Karen (Avantika), who are the new Plastics.

But as in the original Cady begins to become what she detests with her efforts to put Regina and the Plastics in their place and win the heart of Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney).

Credit for any success the film achieves must go to Fey and her rewrite of the story. The plot is the same.
Do surface-level, high-school relational dynamics ever really change?

However, Fey doesn’t rely too much on the bits and catch phrases that entered the public lexicon after the success of the original. She gives us new or alternate material to enjoy while dancing and singing around the original plot.

Culture has changed since the original. We are more inclusive today and maybe less funny. The film reflects that by dropping some of its more inappropriate zingers, which new audiences probably won’t miss. An example is that Regina is referred to as a “cow” in this movie’s Burn Book rather than a “slut.”

The message is basically the same, but it doesn’t cut as deep as the original.

The film’s advertising seems to be hiding the film’s musical fare, which might be the key reason to see the new film instead of revisiting the original.

That’s not to say the movie’s musical aspects soar. It’s a middling example of the genre. The best of the musical numbers is the catchy “Revenge Party,” which might have audience members humming the tune as they exit the theater.

A major part of the success of the original was across-the-board memorable performances by the young actresses. The new cast doesn’t fare as well. Most of the performances border on imitation, but Rapp’s Regina is the standout.

She puts the mean in “Mean Girls” with an overboard sexual attitude that’s a cross between a voracious tiger and a caricature of Marilyn Monroe on the make. That may sound too big, but the boldness works enough to give the toned-down film some bite.

The 2004 original is the superior movie in every way and certainly the version I would rewatch at home if given the choice, but the new musical take was enjoyable, but I doubt that it will inspire another remake 20 years down the line.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 56 min.
Grade: C+

New in Local Theaters – Jan. 12, 2024

  • Mean Girls (PG-13) 1 hr. 56 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight
  • The Book of Clarence (PG-13) 2 hr. 9 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle
  • The Beekeeper (R) 1 hr. 45 min. (trailer)
    AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight

Disney, Pixar releasing pandemic-era films in theaters

Soul (Courtesy/Walt Disney Pictures)

Three of Disney and Pixar’s better animated features in recent years are finally getting theatrical releases as the studios are releasing “Soul,” “Luca,” and “Turning Red” in theaters for the first time.

All three movies were developed for theatrical release, but debuted on the streaming platform Disney + at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 201.

Now the studios are turning back the page and exhibiting the films as they were intended — on the big screen.

“Soul,” which won an Academy Award for Best Animated film in 2021 was originally intended to open in theaters on June 19, 2020, but Covid-19 was at its height at that point and most theaters were closed.

Disney opted to debut “Soul” on its streaming service Christmas Day 2020 to much fanfare, but the film has never been shown in theaters until today thanks to a special engagement.

AMC Fiesta Square, the Malco Razorback and Pinnacle Hills theaters are showing the film this week. “Turning Red” will open in theaters on Feb. 9, with “Luca” to follow on March 22.

The trip set the stage for the debut of the latest Pixar sequel “Inside Out 2,” which is scheduled to open in theaters June 14.

Review: Soul

It’s hard to go wrong with a Pixar film, and “Soul” (Disney+) is no exception.

The movie features the voice talents of Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner, a school band teacher who aspires to greatness as a jazz pianist, and Tina Fey as 22, a soul trapped in the “Great Before,” who needs to find her spark before she can be born on Earth.

Foxx’ Joe is on the verge of his big break as a jazz musician when and accident sends his soul on a journey up a spiritual elevator headed for the “Great Beyond.” As Joe seeks to find his way back to his body, he winds up in the “Great Before,” where he meets 22, a cranky soul who is reluctant to find her purpose.

Joe hopes to somehow win his life back by helping 22 find her life’s calling, but when he and 22 leap from the “Great Before” to Earth, 22 winds up in Joe’s body, while he lands in the body of a cat.

Can Joe and 22 find their way into their proper forms? What adventures will they have as they try, and what lessons will they learn?

I’m not telling you here, but I’m pretty sure if you watch the movie, you’ll be glad you invested the time.

You might find the film reminiscent of “Inside Out,” which was also directed by Pete Docter as well as other Pixar favorites like “Monster’s Inc.” and “Up.” But that’s not a bad thing, just an observation.

(PG) 1 hr. 47 min.
Grade: A