What 2024’s Mean Girls Does Better Than the Original Movie

Mean Girls
Mean Girls

2004’s Mean Girls is one of those films that everyone and their dad has seen. It only makes sense that the remake is currently triumphing at the box office, but while reviews have been positive, they haven’t been as glowing as the original’s. 2024’s Mean Girls only has a 70% on Rotten Tomatoes while the first film has a certified fresh 84%.

The remake, for the most part, follows the familiar narrative of Cady and the Plastics, so almost everything it does in this regard pales in comparison to the original movie. However, it does introduce some new twists to its story, and not just that it’s a musical.

Get in, loser. We’re exploring what Mean Girls did better than Mean Girls.

 

More Nuanced Side Characters

With this remake, writer Tina Fey has taken the opportunity to flesh out many side characters, especially Janis and Damian. In the original, these two are fun characters, but there’s not much to either of them outside of their plan with Cady to bring Regina down. Yes, they’re both filled with personality, but their friendship wasn’t quite that believable, and their hobbies were never clearly defined.

In the new film, Janis and Damian clearly love each other. There’s an obvious understanding between them as outcasts, which is what motivates them to befriend Cady as the two notice her having trouble making friends and comprehending how high school works.

Janis’ love for art is also made far more apparent. In the original, she only mentions this when she invites Cady to an art show she’s part of. The new Janis is shown doing art while being bored in class, talking to Cady about what her art means to her, and smiling proudly when the principal announces she’s made it into a presumably important art show.

Gretchen and Karen are also shown to be softer here, as Gretchen comforts Karen after Regina makes her feel insecure and Karen tells Cady they’re still friends after finding out about her lies. While the Plastics were never meant to be a display of true friendship, it’s a little hard to believe the three only ever secretly hated each other as they did spend most of high school together. It’s more interesting to see these girls juggle between playing the role of friends and actually having some fondness for each other, as toxic as that fondness may be.

That said, this is a double-edged sword as the original film was a satirical comedy, so the satire isn’t as sharp in the new one given how less mean the characters are. A stronger script might’ve solved this problem, but 2024’s Mean Girls stumbles a lot in making the Plastics believably shallow while also occasionally capable of empathy. This direction with the titular group isn’t greatly successful, but it’s still something I’m glad Tina Fey decided to explore.

 

Cady and Janis

Cady’s friendship with Janis was one of the original’s weakest links. The two have maybe two conversations that don’t involve the Plastics, and even then, they’re about where a classroom is and why Cady stopped being homeschooled. Those aren’t exactly topics that lead to a great friendship.

In the remake, Cady and Janis’s friendship is far more developed. Janis helps Cady in French class. Damian and Janis help Cady out when she eats lunch in the bathroom stall. The three have conversations about Cady’s crush on Aaron, in a montage scene that smartly shows the passage of time and Cady, Janis, and Damian becoming more comfortable with each other as the days go by.

Cady even asks Janis about her art, and Janis wholeheartedly talks about it with her. Seeing Cady take an interest in Janis’s hobbies this time around deepens their friendship and even makes the scene where Cady sees Janis’s art piece of her, Cady, and Damian more impactful.

When Janis and Cady make up at the end, the two even share a hug, and it’s a hug that feels earned. Mean Girls was always about how toxic teen female friendships can become, so to have the new film end with a hug between two teen girls we know will go on to have a healthy friendship feels ten times more affecting than Cady’s obligatory ending kiss with Aaron.

 

Cady and Regina

Every diehard fan knows the deleted scene where Cady and Regina talk in the comfort room during the Spring Fling dance. Had the scene remained, it would’ve shown Cady apologizing to Regina, Regina bringing up Aaron and acknowledging her own mean nature, and the two sharing smiles as, while they both know they’ll never be friends again, some closure has been achieved with their incredibly complicated relationship.

It’s one that should’ve never been deleted, as the original film had us assuming Cady and Regina learned to be cool with each other without really talking about it. Tina Fey must’ve regretted this scene being removed, too, because not only is this scene present in the new film, it’s also improved upon.

The conversation begins after Cady helps Regina pick up her dropped make-up bottle, something Regina needs help doing because of her broken bones. It’s a smart way to start such a conversation as it’s made clear from the start that Regina is no longer the superior one here — she’s instead the one who needs help, and Cady genuinely helps her as she does feel she’s somewhat to blame for Regina’s accident.

Aaron isn’t even mentioned and the focus remains solely on the way these two hurt each other, with Regina, again, acknowledging her awful behavior not just to Cady, but to everyone in her school. She then starts saying something about what people would be calling her if she was a boy, and just before you can start that eye-roll, she says, “Reginald. That’s the name my mom would’ve picked had she had a boy.”

It’s a clever turnaround from Regina using supposed sexism against her as an excuse not to change and grow as a person. “I know I have to change,” she says to Cady, the film making it clear that Regina’s attitude and actions were never okay, regardless of what sex she was.

 

Mean Girls or Mean Girls?

Given how it’s only been 20 years since the first Mean Girls, a remake this soon had the impossible task of catching lightning in a bottle twice. It’s no surprise the new film doesn’t work nearly as well, but the 2024 version can at least be proud that it wasn’t just a beat-for-beat remake of the first film, only this time with musical numbers.

This iteration actually did some elements better, explored some new interesting ideas with the characters, and even had two or three catchy tunes in its soundtrack. 2024’s Mean Girls may not be all that fetch, but several parts of it are pretty grool.

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