Film Editor Alice Weltermann reviews Mean Girls (2024), finding it to be disappointingly safe albeit fun experience

Written by Alice Weltermann
Third year English student and Film Editor.

Get in, loser, we’re looking past the criticism and questionable marketing decisions.

After seeing a trailer for the 2024 film before Taylor Swift: the Eras Tour, I began to feel something coming on- something powerful, something ancient. Bubbling to the surface was the musical theatre phase I had done so well at stifling for years, right there in the Odeon New Street. I panicked. How could I keep this down? It felt like word vomit- no, actual vomit.

I didn’t vomit, but instead allowed myself to look forward to it (just a little). Maybe this would be the remake that was actually good, that respected it’s original, that wasn’t purely motivated by bums-on-seats, that would bring a new perspective to a timeless story.

Amazingly, it’s not bad.

Mean Girls is a Musical that is incredibly ashamed of being a Musical

Mean Girls (2003) is a text incredibly central to pop culture as we know it, and has multiplied its prevalence in recent years. Originally an adaptation of Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Queen Bees and Wannabes (2002) the story was made into a screenplay by Tina Fey in 2003, leading to the iconic Mean Girls. This was adapted into a Musical by Nell Benjamin and Jeff Richards, receiving much critical acclaim upon its Broadway premier in 2017. Reneé Rapp starred as Regina George at the age of 19, getting her start as a singer/songwriter. Indeed, Rapp is easily the best part of the musical’s film adaptation, exuding confidence and making every scene she’s in better than the last. With such a rich adapted history, Mean Girls (2024) has difficulty justifying its existence: it feels a little obsolete. The original film is still beloved, and the musical is still in theatres- it will be coming to London at the Savoy Theatre this June. Nevertheless, the remake is worth watching if you know and like the source material, and is perfect for a light weekend watch with some friends.

The film is surprisingly innovative and skilful, and does a good job of making a now-familiar plot feel new. It incorporates the aspect of social media well, although there are still moments that feel a little cringe-worthy. The use of phones, TikTok, Messages and a music video style in-media-res work well; despite fears that the film may feel out of touch and ‘millennial’, it seems to get the kind of Gen Z humour that Netflix would kill to achieve. Montages of social media happenings are cliché, but effective, and sneak in little jokes- for example Karen’s ‘#holloween’ caption on her Halloween TikTok. The costumes, too, feel adequately current, although they may be outdated in a few years as the trend cycle gets shorter- a return to the y2k style of the original may have worked to combat this. Highly notable is the camera work; shots keep up with creatively choreographed dance sequences, with exciting movements working to engage the viewer. The film is clearly well-planned, shot and edited- it feels like a piece that has been well-loved and laboriously considered, which certainly translates into the outcome. As well as this, most of the cast do amazingly in their parts- Bebe Wood as Gretchen is delightful, and Avantika Vandanapu as Karen is downright hilarious.

With such a rich adapted history, Mean Girls (2024) has difficulty justifying its existence

The fact remains, though: Mean Girls is a Musical that is incredibly ashamed of being a Musical. It is better than expected, but with a bar that gets lower every time a 2000s hit is remade, that may not be saying much. It feels as though the marketing for the film wanted to cover up its genre rather than lean into it; there are aspects of campness or satire, facets that Musicals live to exacerbate, but these are delightful exceptions rather than regular inclusions. Another seemingly nonsensical decision is Cady (Angourie Rice). Rice acts well, and appears to give her all, but her casting is a decision that viewers seem to be finding hard to justify. Her voice, although lovely for softer songs, simply doesn’t compliment the classic Mezzo-Soprano lead that is Cady. The songs in Mean Girls are very demanding- every singing part needs to be highly trained and very strong vocally, and unfortunately Rice simply falls behind powerhouses like Rapp and Auliʻi Cravalho, who plays Janis. The musical theatre world is overrun with Mezzo-Sopranos- casting one would not have been difficult.


Mean Girls: The Musical is a great musical; Mean Girls (2003) is a great film; Mean Girls (2024) struggles to mediate between two artworks formidable in their own right.  Ultimately, the remake is neither necessary nor better than other iterations. It is certainly fun, pink, and has moments of complete self-awareness that feel highly current and fresh. It seems the makers could not agree on what to commit themselves to, resulting in a safe bet. A riskier film would have been braver and almost definitely better- this one is holding itself back. Strong performances from most of the cast and great vocals make it work a watch, and looking past some glaring flaws the film is actually great. Maybe it will become a camp classic; more likely it will be buried quietly in the remake graveyard, but I for one will be attending the funeral.