‘You can’t sit with us!’: The failure of ‘Mean Girls’

Paramount Pictures’ new musical interpretation of the cult classic ‘Mean Girls’ has caused a stir among nostalgic fans, but the criticism may be warranted.
Mean Girls (2024) promotional image. Credit: Paramount Pictures
Mean Girls (2024) promotional image. Credit: Paramount Pictures


Twenty long years after the release of the original movie, “Mean Girls” is back and more “fetch” than ever! With the original film’s everlasting legacy and growing popularity among new teen audiences, a modernized adaptation seemed like the perfect next step. But between questionable costuming, the return of a few all-star actors, and an unexpected musical element, audiences have had a less than positive reaction. 

From actress and comedian Tina Fey, based on the stage musical of the same name, 2024’s “Mean Girls” has made colossal waves across the internet. Is it really worth the fuss?

Plot Synopsis

“Mean Girls” (2024)  is a teen musical comedy following Cady Heron, a girl fresh out of homeschooling from her parents in Africa and heading straight into the chaos of life at an American high school. After Cady befriends a few outcasts, she helps craft a plot to take down queen bee Regina George and her posse, dubbed “the Plastics.” But as she navigates the cruel and fickle laws of teenage popularity, Cady finds herself becoming just as shallow as they are.

Cady starts off on the right foot, showing her authentic, kind personality before the love she receives gets to her head and she becomes more like the Plastics.

— Ania Willis '26

The Good

Despite my reaction to the announcement of a new “Mean Girls” movie adhering to the negative feelings of many others, I held up faith that there would be something in this film I could get behind, and I was right. I ended up pleasantly surprised to find there were things in the viewing process that I enjoyed.

For one, I liked the cinematography. The over-the-top nature of the musical scenes that felt like dramatic music videos and the more noticeable editing were what really made this movie stand out to me. For example, I loved a moment at the end of the song “World Burn,” where the camera focuses on Regina (Reneé Rapp), with her mouth agape as she’s singing, before a smash cut to an identical shot of her as the song abruptly stops, now showing her loudly crying in the principal’s office.

I loved a lot of the actors as well, including Avantika Vandanapu as Karen, Jaquel Spivey as Damien, and cameos from Lindsey Lohan and Megan Thee Stallion. Vandanapu’s performance was particularly great, from her goofy and energetic rendition of Karen’s song “Sexy,” to her hilarious portrayal of such a dumb character. 

The Bad

Unlike some other viewers’ reactions to the announcement of this new film, I wasn’t completely turned off by the fact that it was a musical. I’m a fan of musical theater and have heard a few bits and pieces of the songs from the original Broadway production. But, that doesn’t mean I was super excited about the musical aspect either. I’m not a huge fan of the musical’s songs, especially with some of the more ridiculous lyrics included in them. Though I don’t have much good to say about the songs, I think Reneé Rapp as Regina and Auli’i Cravalho as Janis were some of the best singers in the cast, clearly putting their all into their performances.

Truly, I didn’t think the movie was that funny, despite being a comedy targeted at my exact demographic, teenagers. At best, most of the jokes just didn’t make me laugh out loud. At the worst, they were jokes from the original movie rewritten with a new punchline that missed the mark. Some attempts were just outward references to the original movie, such as repeated lines that weren’t necessarily meant to be jokes but became quotable moments among fans. In this new movie, the delivery doesn’t have the same punch or shock value, coming off more so as the writers pointing to the line and going, “Hey, that’s the thing they said in the original movie! Everyone Clap!” 

The idea of audience nostalgia and recognizability does a lot of heavy lifting in the comedy department, only serving to make it even clearer where the movie falls short originality-wise. Without the reference to the “Mean Girls” products before it, this movie holds no ground in entertainment or comprehensive plot points.

The Cady Problem

To put it simply, the portrayal of Cady Heron in this movie just isn’t as likable or relatable as Lindsey Lohan’s Cady in the original. This isn’t a problem with the actress herself (Angourie Rice), but the difference in story and writing. Cady comes off just as plain as everyone else in the film, rather than a dorky protagonist we still want to root for despite her flaws.

One of the most egregious examples of her writing’s shortcomings is shown during the Plastics’ performance at the Winter Talent Show, an iconic scene of the original film. In 2004’s “Mean Girls,” Cady is roped into joining the Plastics in the same performance they’ve done every year, a dance to the song “Jingle Bell Rock.” The addition of Cady as a fourth dancer causes a misstep in the Plastics’ choreography, leading to one of the other girls, Gretchen, accidentally kicking their radio into the crowd and stopping the music. While Regina, Gretchen, and Karen stand frozen on the stage, Cady steps in to save them by singing the rest of the song, getting the crowd to sing along with her as the girls finish their dance. This moment is important to the progression of the plot because it’s what signals the true start of Cady’s popularity, serving as the big moment when the student body starts to favor her over Regina.

On the other hand, in the 2024 version of the talent show performance, the big mess-up is downgraded to Regina falling over in the middle of the dance. This is the one big event that leads to her downfall, rather than a slow burn as her appeal fades. The whole school is shown making fun of Regina through a series of TikTok videos while praising Cady for standing there and looking cute.

In my opinion, Cady’s progression from being a nobody to being the most popular girl in school works a lot better in the original “Mean Girls” movie. Cady starts off on the right foot, showing her authentic, kind personality before the love she receives gets to her head and Cady becomes more like the Plastics, betraying her friends just to stay at the top. This new depiction isn’t nearly as compelling or even that realistic, in turn messing with the whole flow of Cady’s storyline and betraying her characterization.

This was simply another cash grab, film studios going after a franchise that has continued to endure the test of time with its charm, only to lose that spark altogether through a cheap remake.

— Ania Willis '26


Overall, the film was just as much of a disappointment as I expected it to be, even with its surprisingly entertaining moments. I can’t help but feeling this was simply another cash grab, film studios going after a franchise that has continued to endure the test of time with its charm, only to lose that spark altogether through a cheap remake. I notice this especially with one of the marketing slogans, stating this movie is “Not your mother’s ‘Mean Girls,’” a motto the film doesn’t follow as it does everything in its power to keep those same memorable moments, only now a million times less sincere. 

I wouldn’t recommend this movie to fans of any “Mean Girls” property, though Broadway fans might hate it half as much just because of the songs alone. As for the newer generation just now being introduced to “Mean Girls,” don’t bother with this modern version, whether you interpret it as a stand-alone or not.

Even without the comparison to the first movie, “Mean Girls” (2024) is a boring, unmemorable waste of two hours.

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