The first Mean Girls trailer—the trailer for the new Mean Girls, that is, due out in 2024—dropped this morning, sowing confusion in its wake. Is this just a shot for shot remake of the 2004 original, with Olivia Rodrigo on the soundtrack and Instagram shoehorned into the plot? Well, no. It’s not. It’s actually an adaptation of the Mean Girls musical, which ran on Broadway from 2018 to 2020, felled by the pandemic. That said, you’d be forgiven for being confused because this promo does not sell that at all.
If you look really carefully you’ll see that many scenes involve choreography, but you will not witness the characters open their mouths to sing the original songs by composer and husband-of-Mean-Girls-mastermind-Tina-Fey Jeff Richmond, with lyrics by Nell Benjamin. Instead you’ll just hear the sounds of Rodrigo’s “get him back!”
It’s truly an odd way to market the film on the part of Paramount, especially given that the studio seems otherwise bullish on what they have in store. This was supposed to be a streaming-only release but has now been shifted to theatrical, plus, there’s genuinely exciting talent involved—over and above Fey and Tim Meadows reprising their original roles.
If you don’t know the plot of Mean Girls at this point I’m not really sure how to help you and I’m worried you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 19 years. But here goes: This version retells the saga of homeschooled Cady Heron (formerly Lindsay Lohan, now Angourie Rice) who enters public high school and finds herself drawn in by an exclusive clique called the Plastics, led by the terrifying and beautiful Queen Bee Regina George.
Regina—a breakout role for Rachel McAdams way back when—is portrayed here by ascendant pop star Renée Rapp, of The Sex Lives of College Girls, who played the role on Broadway before Covid closed the show. The Mean Girls (2024) teaser that screened before Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in theaters highlighted Rapp’s incredible voice; bizarrely, this one does not. But if there’s any question as to whether this is potentially Rapp’s star-making turn, just look at the new poster, which prominently features her face and no one else’s.
Meanwhile, Cady’s outcast pals Janis and Damian are played, respectively, by Auli’i Cravalho, a.k.a. the voice of Moana, and Jacquel Spivey, who starred in Tony winner A Strange Loop. See: These kids are good! And they can sing!
The strange thing about the Mean Girls trailer’s refusal to admit that this is a musical is that affection for the original movie—the one the musical is based on—is still as strong as ever. After all—members of the cast recently reunited for a Walmart Black Friday ad. (McAdams and Lizzy Caplan, bless them, had better things to do.)
The new movie, which should at least bury once and for all the misbegotten made-for-TV sequel Mean Girls 2, comes out January 12.