'Mean Girls' hits & misses

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday January 30, 2024
Share this Post:
'Mean Girls' (photo: Paramount Studios)
'Mean Girls' (photo: Paramount Studios)

The trend of adapting films into stage musicals and then movie musicals has produced hits such as "Hairspray," and misses including "The Producers." "Mean Girls" (Paramount), falls somewhere in between, although it leans closer to a miss.

Fans of the original 2004 "Mean Girls" movie, based on Rosalind Wiseman's 2002 book "Queen Bees & Wannabes," will be pleased to know that, for the most part, the musical remains true to its source. The ageless Tina Fey, who wrote the screenplays for both, returns as math teacher Ms. Norbury, as does Tim Meadows as Principal Duvall.

There are notable minor changes including making Ms. Heron (Jenna Fischer), the mother of lead character Cady (Angourie Rice), a single parent. The most significant changes include a considerable increase in BIPOC and LGBTQ characters, both major and minor, as well as the inescapable presence of social media and smartphones in the lives of high school students.

The bottom line is that comparisons are inevitable, and Rice is no Lindsay Lohan, Christopher Briney is no Jonathan Bennett, and Busy Philipps is no Amy Poehler. However, Reneé Rapp (who performed in the musical on Broadway) and Jaquel Spivey do succeed in taking complete ownership of their roles as queen bee Regina and sassy queen Damian, respectively.

Bebe Wood as Gretchen and Auli'i Cravalho as Janis come close to making us forget the original performers (Lacey Chabert and Lizzy Caplan) but fall short.

Speaking of Lindsay Lohan, her appearance as the Mathletes challenge moderator is sure to elicit the same audience reaction as when Whoopi Goldberg appeared as the midwife in "The Color Purple" movie musical.

The following is a series of questions (not to be confused with a pop quiz) that deserve to be answered.

Why are the songs, written by Nell Benjamin and Jeff Richmond (husband of Tina Fey), utterly forgettable? Seriously, see if you find yourself humming even one of them after the credits roll.

Why is the choreography so clunky, uninspired, and derivative (hello, "La La Land")?

Why did it take two (!) directors — Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez, Jr. — to come up with this?

Why are the scenes with the most well-deserved laughs, all featuring Rapp, saved for the last 30 minutes of the movie?

The tradition of the movie musical isn't exactly in jeopardy, but it doesn't look promising. The biggest concern? That Benjamin and Richmond, who also co-wrote the stage musical version of "Legally Blonde," are at work on a movie adaptation of that one. Rating: C-

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife. Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!