This is the Wild West Review, a collection of movie reviews from four AMC Theatres frequenters Spencer West, Zach Bradshaw, Gib Manrique and Larisa May.
There comes a time in a man’s life where he questions what he is doing: "What is my purpose? What am I meant to do in this world? How can I become the best version of myself?" Well, whenever I have those thoughts, I choose to completely ignore them, and instead go to my local AMC Arizona Center 24 theater and see the newest movie release. Often, I go with my good friends Zach, Gib, and Larisa, part of my A-List Entourage.
I probably spent more than a week’s worth of time at AMC in the year 2023, so it seems absolutely bonkers that I still do not have a weekly film review column. Well, fear no more my dear friends, because I, Mr. Spencer West, will now post a weekly film review column here on Blazeradioonline.com. No longer will you have to worry about whether a movie is good or not, no longer must you worry about picking the perfect movie for your next date! Now, you can just read my column and know exactly what to watch! So, what better way to start than with the recent release of “Mean Girls” (2024).
“Mean Girls” is an adaptation of the Broadway musical “Mean Girls,” which first premiered in 2017. The Broadway musical was, of course, an adaptation of the original “Mean Girls” movie from 2004. What these three adaptations of the same source material have in common is Tina Fey, who wrote the screenplay. Tina Fey also makes an appearance in both films, so her presence is definitely felt. To preface, I'm not so sure if I'm the target audience for the original or the musical, but I found the original film quite funny, and enjoyed the plot thoroughly.
The new film has the same plot structure, but adds to the story by throwing a bunch of songs right in the middle. Most of the songs were... not so great. Many were the typical Broadway musical sound we all know (and some love), but the songs I really enjoyed were the ones that used more of a modern pop influence, such as “Someone Gets Hurt,” which had me bopping my head in the theater.
Mainly, my problems with the music came from the purpose behind it. Many of the songs took jokes from the 2004 film and simply turned them into songs. Instead of progressing the plot forward with the lyrics, it just says the joke over and over again, which got pretty tiring after a while. “Apex Predator” was one of the more egregious examples, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Another song, “A cautionary tale” made me feel like I was a 6-year-old kid who had to be told the story was a cautionary tale. Wow, thank you so much, I would have never known that this movie had actual thematic elements if you didn’t tell me in the literal first scene of the movie. And then THEY GO SING IT AGAIN AT THE END OF THE FILM? It does NOT have to be reiterated, I just watched the whole movie, I get what you’re trying to say, don’t repeat it in the first AND last scene of the movie.
I also had some bring problems with the casting for the film. Now, don’t get me wrong, some of the characters were definitely improvements over their 2004 counter parts, such as Jaquel Spivey as Damian Hubbard and Chloe Auliʻi Cravalho as Janis Sarkisian, who both received solid character development. Spivey played my favorite character as Damian, his backhanded comments and quips made the movie for me, and his performance at the winter talent show was wonderful.
My issue comes with the protagonist and antagonist of the film, Angourie Rice as Cady Heron and Reneé Rapp as Regina George. I felt Rice played Cady in such a boring way, the character was one note, and her “mean girl” era was disappointing to say the least. The performance is especially disappointing if you’ve seen Rice’s performance in “The Nice Guys,” where she absolutely kills as Holly March, daughter of private investigator Holland March, played magnificently by Ryan Gosling (get that man in more slap stick movies please).
I might get a lot of hate for what I'm about to say, but Reneé Rapp as Regina George just wasn’t doing it for me. She definitely looks like the attractive mean girl she’s supposed to be playing, but her performance gives a completely different vibe. At no point did I think that she was a mean girl -- she did nothing to prove it. Her malicious comments fell completely flat, her anger towards Cady seemed more like slight jealousy.
Rachel McAdams, who plays George in the 2004 film, used her face perfectly to convey how nasty the character really is. She almost overplays it, which is essential for a comedy that relies so heavily on her performance. Rapp, on the other hand, just seems like a TikTok influencer -- far too laid back for any actual comedy to develop. This was especially evident in the scene after (spoiler if you haven’t seen either film) Regina is hit by the school bus. When we see her again in the bathroom with Cady at the spring fling, she forgives Cady, blaming herself instead for the accident. No argument, no snarky comment or rude look. Just a redeemed Regina George. A redemption that is completely unearned. She gets hit by a bus and is suddenly a good person now? I just didn’t buy it. I would have loved to see some more character development for George, but they simply followed the same formula as the original for the character, which was disappointing. And Rapp’s performance simply could not keep up with the character of Regina George. Her singing talent was on display, but her acting needed help.
So, was “Mean Girls” a successful adaptation of an adaptation of a movie? Yes, and no. I do not think the film was necessary. It could have used more character development and perhaps some changes to the plot, but it likely would not have outdone the original no matter the changes. On the other hand, some of the songs were great, and it brought an essential 2000’s comedy back into the limelight for a younger generation to experience, which seems like the ultimate goal of the film.
I’m going to give 2024’s “Mean Girls” a 5/10. Lindsay Lohan, good try, but ultimately an unnecessary adaption in my eyes.
You can follow me on instagram @spencerhwest, and you can also find me on Letterboxd @splendasreviews!
I haven’t had a free Friday in over a year. Between classes and internships and work, I have kept myself busy on the workweek's ultimate day since January 2022. But when I created my schedule for this spring semester, I decided to give myself Fridays off – a free day that has opened up the possibility for me to pick up a new hobby. And like most ambitious, hard-working college students, I chose my new Friday activity to be taking a 5-minute trek to my local AMC Arizona Center 24 theater and watching a new movie. So I signed up for AMC Stubs A-List, and joined an “Entourage” group with my friends Spencer, Gib and Larisa.
Though I am not a movie theater frequenter like some are, I watched at least four movies per week during the pandemic, so I basically qualify as a movie connoisseur.
I didn’t watch the original “Mean Girls” until October 3, 2023, which so happens to be “Mean Girls” day. I never knew the lore or fun history behind the movie, but as soon as I watched it, I became a “Mean Girl” myself.
So one can understand why I was bewildered when I read my friend Spencer’s vulgar review of the latest installment.
In short, this movie was a blast. I found myself dancing during multiple numbers and laughing when the characters would deliver both dry jokes and energetic renditions of quirky, funny songs. It’s worth noting that I typically hate watching musicals because I think they’re annoying, but the songs in this movie didn’t take over the plot, which happens often in musical adaptations.
Not only were the musical elements impactful, but they meshed well with how the film was written. Writers Tina Fey, Rosalind Wiseman and Bell Benjamin were able to balance the funny, goofy moments (like when main character Cady nervously says the nonexistent word “gruel”) and the sad moments (like when Gretchen admits she thinks something is wrong with her). Though some didn't like the musical elements, I think they were performed with much excitement. The sets are gorgeously constructed and there are fun elements of modern technology, like TikTok, that the film uses to enhance performances. Those who think the musical elements were lame must consider the fact that this is a movie about high school drama: IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE EXTRA AND SHOWY AND IN YOUR FACE.
There’s so many deep characters in this film that each deserve attention, and the writers were able to bring out the best in all of them. Everyone from main characters to even side pieces were given their deserved consideration, especially Karen, who’s not only perfectly stupid but has her own Halloween dance number. Kevin is more himself than ever as he plays the geeky, goofy math nerd who can sing and dance like no other. And Damian’s character fits the plot like a glove, and his wit and joyousness is unforgettable.
Regina is a the kind of character who I believe was the kind of mean girl in the modern era -- someone that people often dislike, but don’t say a word about. She’s rude, pretentious and, of course, absolutely stunning. Regina is a complex character, and Reneé Rapp’s mean girl glare is literally a look that could kill. She’s simply iconic and she knows it. Her mean girl strut is breathtaking and literally leaves watchful students with their jaw on the floor. I believe Regina is played well. Though she isn't a "scary" character per se, she is the exact kind of "mean girl" one would find at a high school in today's era. Obviously Regina and her "Burn Book" could've been meaner, but it felt as though the writers intentionally lessened the Burn Book's and Regina's meanness so that the movie's focus was more so on the music.
Regina's wannabe lover Aaron, played by the gorgeous Christopher Briney, was the movie’s biggest charmer. His blonde locks and green eyes were perfect for the smart-yet-handsome schoolboy that multiple women fall in love with. He was the perfect combination -- a plot point yet also somehow a side piece, and the balance is what made his character so unique. Aaron, admittedly, was a little shallow, but who else would both Regina and Cady fall in love with?
While I appreciated the development of almost every character, there was one who stood out like a sore thumb.
Cady, in my opinion, was bland. Her entire personality was built around the fact that she had a crush on classmate Aaron, even though she had numerous personality traits like moving from Africa, excelling at mathematics and feeding her haters Kalteen bars. Angourie Rice plays Cady as well as she could, but it’s near impossible to beat Lindsay Lohan’s 2004 character, who’s more lively and personable than the Cady in this movie.
It’s clear that I liked this film a lot. I thought it was a fun and festive complement to the original. But there’s nothing I like more than the fact this film shattered my expectations.
I walked into the theater hoping I wouldn’t be cringing at some corny theatrical remake of a classic film. But “Mean Girls” was the kind of humor that is akin to this generation. This film was awesome, despite what people like Mr. Spencer West will write. “Mean Girls” is for the goofballs, the ones who like happy films with fun songs and good vibes. It was a blast through and through, and now even I feel like I’m channeling my inner mean girl.
You can follow me on Instagram at @zach_bradshaw25 and on X (formerly Twitter) at @ZachBradshaw14.
I often attempt to come off as a very cool and trendy person, and for the most part, I have succeeded. My interests seem niche enough to be considered underground, but not lame. Unfortunately, there are some occasions when the illusion is shattered, and this is one of them, because nothing gets me hot and bothered more than incorrectly done musical theater.
If it is not clear, I have recently watched "Mean Girls" in theaters.
It is important to talk at least a bit about the musical itself before fully diving into the movie, because the movie is, of course, an adaptation of the musical, not the original film, which is something that advertisements seem to leave out for a lot of trailers.
There have been many videos appearing on TikTok or X (formerly Twitter) of people showing up to the movie not expecting a musical, and loudly groaning upon hearing the first song. The movie being a surprise musical would, of course, be better if the musical itself was outstanding or heartfelt. Is it? In my opinion at least… not particularly.
In his original review of the musical upon its release, New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley stated,:“The trouble lies in the less assured translation of Ms. Fey's sly take on adolescent social angst into crowd-pleasing song and dance. Mr. Richmond and Ms. Benjamin's many (many) musical numbers are passable by middle-of-the-road Broadway standards, yet they rarely capture either the tone or the time of being a certain age in a certain era.”
Brantley highlights the main issue here. The original references to Tina Fey’s Mean Girls are still great. They still capture that edginess that comes with being a teenager in the 2000s. It is everything around that that seems to be the problem. For something based on a piece of media that is so witty, the many songs with little substance drag the musical on forever, with it being two and a half hours compared to the movie’s run time of 97 minutes. Every single song seems to be based on a reference or two straight from the film. It almost seems as though the actors stop for a second for the audience to react to a haphazardly thrown-in “Glen Coco!” before continuing on the average lyrics and sound mixing.
But that's just the stage musical, even more issues with the half-baked lyrics come out within the movie adaption. Fortunately, many of the original musical’s faults are covered up by just how good the singing performances are, and how catchy each piece of music is.
Despite its corniness, I would be lying if I said “Apex Predator” wasn’t fun to listen to. Also, the performances of Janis by Barrett Wilbert Weed or Cady by Erika Henningsen along with many others are a true showcase of Broadway vocals.
Something just gets lost in translation to the movie adaption. The music in the background is quieter and more toned down, which can be seen especially in the musical versus movie version of Regina George’s villain ballad “World Burn.” The background vocals aren’t as upbeat and often leave much to be desired when paired with movie Cady’s lackluster performance.
So with the cheesy lyrics, lack of fun background music and talented vocalists somewhat removed from the equation, the viewer is left with upset online people being tricked into watching a musical adaptation. It is great to watch Reneé Rapp on screen, and Avantika Vandanapu is carrying the movie as Karen, but for the actual songs and dance numbers, it does not even hold a candle to the Broadway adaptation, which was not that amazing to begin with.
There are many of those who do not share these opinions with me and are not seeing this through my already biased gaze as a musical theater loser. For example, I saw this film and many others with Zach Bradshaw, who loved this movie, and Spencer West, who analyzed the movie itself without previous musical knowledge.
Make sure to check out their pieces as well and many more movie reviews in the works, as I thought it was really sad and weird to keep letting Spencer sit in a movie theater by himself watching movies every week alone, so I am joining him.
Follow me on Instagram @gib.nky or on Twitter @iamGibManrique.
I’ve been looking for a way to see more movies, so when my friend Spencer mentioned his AMC Stubs A-List subscription for the billionth time, I caved and decided to try it for myself. Now we’re joined by our friends Zach and Gib, and together we’ve decided to start a weekly movie review to share our own thoughts on the films we see (and hopefully decrease post-movie arguments). What better way to start our endeavor than with the highly anticipated “Mean Girls” movie musical adaptation.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie. If I can sit back and be absorbed in the plot of a movie for a couple of hours, I’m happy. However, I did have my qualms with certain aspects of the adaptation, and I’m hoping that the mixed audience reaction has been a “cautionary tale” to marketing teams and studios looking to recreate 2000s nostalgia.
As a fan of the original movie, I felt the adaptation simultaneously tried too hard to hold the source material on a pedestal while somehow undermining some of the biggest aspects of the movie. For example, Lindsay Lohan’s cameo is played up for nostalgia’s sake, but the "Burn Book" is nowhere near as mean as it was in the 2004 “Mean Girls,” and the chaos created from it is much more tame. Regina and the Plastics themselves weren’t the traditional mean girls either, instead being more snarky than malicious.
Marketing was another problem I had with the movie, both the marketing of the film itself and the product placement within. While I knew it was a musical walking into the theatre, many audience members didn’t, as it was barely advertised as one. The movie had several scenes that just felt like commercials, where products were either mentioned by name or featured prevalently. For example, the promotion of E.L.F. makeup momentarily took me out of the movie, since it’s a cheaper drugstore brand that the original Regina George would probably make fun of someone for using.
However, the biggest issue I had with the film was costuming. While the outfits were (mostly) cute, they were nowhere near on-brand for the characters wearing them, and most of the fabrics looked cheap and Shein-esque. While I love cargo pants, the puffy pink pair Regina wore was not at all suited for her. The clothes weren’t suited for her body type, undermining the “look” they were trying to achieve for her in the scene. Additionally, many of the outfits were based on microtrends, which will instantly date the film upon rewatch in a few years. I wish the costume department went with a twist on the classic 2000s looks in the first movie, which would better suit the movie’s aesthetic and be a nice callback to the source.
That being said, I did like many aspects of the movie. While some of the songs weren’t quite my style, I really enjoyed Rapp’s performances, especially “Someone Gets Hurt” and “World Burn.” Avantika Vandanapu, who plays Karen Shetty, nailed her Halloween party song “Sexy.” I found myself singing several of the tracks after the movie, and have been playing Regina’s songs on repeat. While I understand the complaints that the vocals weren’t as strong as they were for the Broadway version, I feel they were adequately adapted for the big screen.
I also liked the bigger role Damian took on in this adaptation. He and Janice helped bring the film to life as narrators, and I found myself sympathizing with Janice more in this rendition. One of my favorite scenes was Damian’s talent show performance, and him explaining the backstory between Regina and Janice to Cady. Additionally, while I feel Regina wasn’t as mean as she should have been, I think Rapp did a good job playing the character she was given.
Overall, “Mean Girls” (2024) was a fun watch, and I enjoyed the callbacks to the first movie. There were certain aspects that could have been improved upon, and I wish they made some changes to the film’s marketing, but at the end of the day, I’d give it 3.5/5 stars.
For more of my takes you can follow me on Instagram @larislynn, Twitter (I’m not calling it X) @larisamay01, and on Letterboxd @larisamay.