Mean Girls is a smart and funny update of the iconic movie

the plastics, bebe wood as gretchen, renee rapp as regina george, avantika as karen, mean girls
Mean Girls reviewParamount Pictures

It's been 20 years since Mean Girls got its own official day (October 3, obviously), made phrases like "fetch" part of culture and specified a day to wear pink.

Cady, Aaron, Janis, Regina George and the Plastics are now back on the big screen, but don't go calling Mean Girls a remake. While the trailers have done their best to hide it, this is a full-blown musical, which makes it feel more of a companion piece than a remake.

Based on the Broadway musical (which will make its way to London later this year), it's a new interpretation of a familiar story that's been updated for the TikTok generation. Fear not though, it still remembers to please the original fans and doesn't make us feel (too) old.

It is, as Gretchen would love us to say, so fetch.

jaquel spivey as damian, angourie rice as cady, auli'i cravalho as janis, mean girls
Paramount Pictures

While the genre is new, the story is the same. In case you haven't seen Mean Girls, it sees new student Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) transfer from Africa to a US high school, which she discovers has its own particular food chain.

Luckily for her, she's invited into the very top of that social structure by Regina George (Reneé Rapp), leader of The Plastics. But when Cady happens to fall for Regina's ex Aaron (Christopher Briney), she becomes prey to Regina and must take her down before she's eaten alive. (Metaphorically, of course, this hasn't become a horror movie.)

Things play out as you'd expect, but there have been tweaks along the way. Social media plays a bigger part this time around and the characters of Janis and Aaron get more to do as the narrators of the story, but there's no wholesale changes that could have risked the wrath of fans.

With nods to the original movie, including classic lines repeated, you might be wondering what the point is. But it's in switching it to a musical that ensures Mean Girls feels like a fresh take.

the plastics, bebe wood as gretchen, renee rapp as regina george, avantika as karen, mean girls
Paramount Pictures

In the same way that it freshens up the original movie, Mean Girls also isn't a direct retread of the Broadway musical.

Songs have been cut, new songs added and lyrics have been adjusted, while the songs that remain have been transformed to become less Broadway belters and more pop/rock bangers. This could infuriate diehard fans of the musical, yet it's another sign that writer Tina Fey hasn't just rested on her laurels and delivered a retread.

Directors Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr have drawn on their commercial and music video background to creatively stage each number, brilliantly playing with aspect ratios and perspective throughout. Characters regularly break into their own music videos, giving plenty of opportunities for fourth-wall breaking and meta jokes.

All of the visual flourishes would be just window dressing if it weren't for the excellent cast delivering them: for all the updates, the actors had arguably the toughest gig, living up to the stars we've associated with the likes of Cady and Regina for two decades, but they manage in putting their own spin on the classic characters.

christopher briney as aaron, mean girls
Paramount Pictures

As good as Angourie Rice is as Cady, excelling in her first musical role, it's still the Regina George show. Reneé Rapp's take is more vicious and direct, commanding whichever scene she's in and every number she has, including stand-outs 'World Burn' and 'Someone Gets Hurt'.

Even Regina is overshadowed at times though by the terrific duo of Auli'i Cravalho and Jacquel Spivey as Janis and Damian. Not only are they elevated to narrators of the story, their characters are also given more emotional depth, although it's disappointing Damian's biggest number from the musical has been cut.

That slight misstep aside, Mean Girls succeeds as a smart and funny update of the 2004 movie, one sure to delight fans as well as introducing a whole new generation to the concept of fetch.

4 stars
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Mean Girls is out now in cinemas.

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