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Highs, lows, and where the notes fell flat: a review of Mean Girls 

MOORHEAD — Mean Girls, a film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical which premiered in 2017, hit theaters Jan. 12 and it’s been making a lot of noise.  

As someone who is a big fan of the original movie and was able to watch the Broadway musical, there were many moments I was looking forward to reliving on the big screen. However, in many ways, the screen adaptation couldn’t hit the right notes. 

The biggest flaw with Mean Girls was that it shirked away from being a musical, which is the entire point of the film.  

The movie starts off strong, with Janis and Damien, played by Auli’i Cravalho and Jaquel Spivey respectively, giving an engaging performance of the rock track “Cautionary Tale,” which warns the audience of what’s to come. However, whatever energy the two created in the opening scene is immediately lost when the viewer is introduced to Cady Heron in the following scene.  

“It Roars”, which is the next song that should have been performed based on the Broadway musical, is replaced with a song called “What If’s,” sung by Australian actress Angourie Rice, who plays Cady. In a different scenario, “What If’s” would be a perfectly fine song. As a replacement for “It Roars” it is a mistake.  

In the musical “It Roars” perfectly sets up Cady as a character, portraying the humor, optimism and naivete that makes her so likeable, even when she acts horribly later in the show. “What If’s” serious tone and vague lyrics lack the delight and strength of “It Roars” and reveals very little about who Cady is.  

This lack of energy and personality becomes the theme of Cady’s songs throughout the movie. “Stupid With Love” typically an upbeat song meant to capture the giddy feeling of having a new crush, is slowed down and reduced to a single note tune with none of the same dramatics that make the original version so popular. 

“Apex Predator” a song dedicated to Cady learning her place in the American high school food chain and studying the Plastics, is no longer even sung by Cady. Instead, she is replaced by Damien and Janis, who seem to be carrying the weight of every shared song on their shoulders.  

“Revenge Party” a similarly lively song, also features Cady, Janis and Damien on vocals. While Rice sings on this track, she is overshadowed by Cravalho and Spivey, who bring all the power to a song meant to show Cady’s turning point to a mean girl.  

The strongest performance of the film, however, goes to Renee Rapp, who plays Regina George. Rapp previously played Regina in the Broadway version of Mean Girls from 2019-2020, and she continues to embody everything that makes Regina the it girl she is whenever on screen.  

Rapp’s entrance in “Meet the Plastics,” our introduction to the iconic trio of Regina George, Gretchen Weiners and Karen Shetty, is one of the most memorable scenes of the film, and many viewers will find themselves as captivated by Regina as Cady is.  

However, “Meet the Plastics” is also only about Regina, whereas in the Broadway version, Gretchen and Karen have their own musical introductions. This is especially disappointing as the movie either cut or removed most of the other songs featuring Gretchen and Karen, such as “Fearless” and “Stop.” 

Bebe Wood, who plays Gretchen, does have one quiet musical moment with the self-doubt filled song “What’s Wrong With Me,” but it’s missing the desperation of Gretchen that’s captured in the stage version. Avantika Vandanapu, who plays Karen, gets to assert her star power later in the movie, during solo pop song “Sexy” but is still largely underutilized in the film. Both actresses do an excellent job with what they are given, but it’s underwhelming when they both have the skill to do much more. 

The two best songs come at the end of the film, with Rapp’s rendition of “World Burn,” and Cravalho’s “I’d Rather Be Me.” The songs, though starkly different in their message, both give the singer a chance to show off their talent. 

In “World Burn” Regina reminds the audience why she is number one and vows to destroy everything as revenge for Cady trying to take her down. Though the song is unnecessarily slowed down (again) it also highlights Rapp’s vocals. Rapp’s voice is so powerful, and her ability to belt high notes so impressive, that by the end of the song it’s hard not to root for her, even if she is planning total destruction. 

Cravalho also gives a knockout performance in “I’d Rather Be Me,” an unapologetic song about self-acceptance and pushing back against the expectations placed on women. Cravalho’s voice is not only beautiful, but she brings just the right amount of confidence and indifference to Janis. 

So, is Mean Girls worth watching? If you’re a fan of Renee Rapp or Auli’i Cravalho, the answer is a resounding yes. If you’re a fan of the original movie or the Broadway musical, it’s a solid maybe. The good thing about Mean Girls is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and as a casual movie is a fun way to spend two hours and twenty dollars. However, diehard fans of the original movie or musical may find themselves underwhelmed, and there’d be no loss in waiting for it to hit streaming site

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