This is the film version of the London-bound musical that was in turn based on the original 2004 movie. Parents of pre-teen girls will view through their fingers the cruelty of clique culture in American high schools. That is when they’re not convulsing at one-liners by screenwriter and comedian Tina Fey who is behind all three versions.
For those who saw the first movie starring Lindsay Lohan a whiff of deja vu pervades the near two hours of this version, begging the question ‘what is the point of making another?’. This doubt largely evaporates however in the face of a talented cast and direction (by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr.) that vaults the “cautionary tale” into our social media-saturated now.
Cady (Angourie Rice instead of Lohan) is a home-schooled daughter of an academic who does most of her research in the African wilderness. When her mum takes a job in Illinois to give her daughter the social life she craves, the fact that Cady is way ahead of her new peers when it comes to maths and African wildlife is no help at all negotiating the hierarchy of school life.
Top of the food chain is the beautiful to most male beholders Regina (the excellent Reneé Rapp) who ruthless bosses her fellow stilettoed “plastics”. They are so called, the grounded Janis explain, because they are “shiny, fake and hard.”
Rice’s Cady may be the heroine of the movie with a journey that goes from being genuine and shy to pitiless and plastic herself. But there is something remiss when a film is at its most energetic and enjoyable when the supporting characters are on screen.
Rapp does blonde bombshell with the awe-inspiring arrogance of someone who was born to be, as one of this musical’s songs has it, an apex predator. Her Regina dominates every scene she appears in. While driving her jeep she delivers to Cady the line “Get in, loser” with such sass the line is destined to be immortalised as a Hollywood moment, easily eclipsing the original.
As if reflecting that Rapp is on a different level from everyone else she dominates the film’s poster, whereas in 2004 it was Lohan’s Cady who took pride of place on the side of buses. Jaquel Spivey and Auli’i Cravalho as best gay friends Jania and Damian are also great company.
The numbers written by Fey’s husband Jeff Richmond (music) and Nell Benjamin (lyrics) are buoyed with terrific choreography. Yet there is a crunching of gear changes when the action moves from spoken word to singing, betraying the fact that music in Mean Girls is an add-on.
Still, you can forgive almost anything with enough wit. And from Janis’s loving description of her best friend Damian as “being so gay he can barely function” Fey’s script is just too funny to ever lose interest in this rehash.