Few high school films this century have managed to reach the peaks of 2004’s Mean Girls. Written by the then-mostly unknown Tina Fey, the endlessly-quotable film launched the careers of Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried, cemented Lindsay Lohan’s status as an A-lister, and has served as one of the most iconic films about high school vanity and insecurities in history. Due to the film’s success, it was later adapted into a 2018 musical, earning 12 Tony Award nominations. And now the circle is complete, with the 2018 musical being adapted back into a film, for which the first trailer has now dropped.
For those who don’t remember, or haven’t seen the film on cable nonstop over the last twenty years, Mean Girls follows Cady Heron (here Angourie Rice), a homeschooled student who finds herself attending public school for the first time in an Evanston, Illinois high school. She soon finds herself caught between two groups: the lovable outcasts who originally took her in, Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), and the popular, evil Plastics, led by Regina George (Reneé Rapp).
Listen, I was excited for this film. It’s pretty well cast, from the kids (Rapp and Spivey are inspired casting, while I probably would have swapped Cravalho and Rice) to the adults (Fey and Tim Meadows reprise their iconic roles, while Jenna Fischer, Busy Phillips, and Jon Hamm take over other iconic roles). But this…this just looks bad. It’s focused on rehashing classic jokes with unnecessary pop culture updates. The staging looks amateurish at best. And it’s not an encouraging sign that in your big, splashy musical, you don’t use a single one of your musical’s songs in favor of an Olivia Rodrigo hit. It makes it look like you’re hiding that the film’s a musical, that the musical numbers aren’t up to snuff, and/or that the songs are bad.
Nevertheless, there’s always a chance that the studio’s just botching the marketing, and that the film ends up defying expectations. After all, getting Rapp – a huge star thanks to her massively successful turn in the Broadway musical – is a huge boon. And it’s worth noting that despite being intended as a Paramount+ original, the studio has instead opted to release the film directly in theaters. Time will tell with this one. But in the meantime, Mean Girls will release in theaters January 12th, 2024. You can watch the trailer below.