The Broadway adaptation defangs its best characters in a misguided effort to appeal to a new generation of viewers.
Paramount’s new version of Tina Fey’s cult classic Mean Girls boasts a tagline many Millennials found downright offensive upon debut: “This ain’t your mother’s Mean Girls!” The movie, based on the Broadway musical adapted from the original 2004 film, makes it abundantly clear that it’s aimed directly at Gen Z from its very opening moments, which look like a vertical phone video straight out of TikTok. Fey, the writer of both versions of Mean Girls, hasn’t been without her fair share of controversies over the twenty years since the first film premiered. In a clear effort to avoid upsetting younger audience members who have grown up with more sensitive media, Fey kneecaps many of her own best jokes. The updated script is a wobbly attempt to satisfy fans of the original without offending newcomers. The set-ups where there used to be jokes still remain, but they’re empty husks strung together by mostly forgettable songs. Though not without its unique charms, the musical Mean Girls is glaringly unfunny.
The music, written by Fey’s husband and frequent creative collaborator Jeff Richmond, does little to make up for the chasms where cutting punchlines have been removed. Richmond can write excellent, hilarious songs like the ones in 30 Rock and Girls5eva, but his compositions here are basic and feel uninspired. Most of the sincere songs revolve around bland messages about self-esteem that lack any insight into the actual emotional experiences of teenage girls. Emo outcast Janis ‘Imi’ike (Auli’i Cravalho, Moana), formerly a supporting character, gets what feels like four separate songs about the power of Being Yourself. Only “Sexy,” a playful number about Halloween costumes performed by ditzy beauty Karen Shetty (Avantika), stands out. Continue Reading →
The crime drama returns to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and rediscovers its best storytelling self.
Throughout the six episodes of Fargo Season 5 screened for critics, the series isn’t exactly subtle. From opening the season with an on-screen graphic defining “Minnesota Nice” as neighbor attacks neighbor during a school board meeting to Sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm) staring up at a campaign billboard of himself, the show loudly states its theses at the viewer over and over.
However, it never feels like creator Noah Hawley has lost control of the storytelling. It’s methodically over-the-top. The audience is on a roller coaster, but they can feel the quality of the engineering keeping them on the tracks. In other hands, this approach can feel alienating or blunting. Fargo Season 5 benefits from meeting Hawley’s signature energy with a game cast and impressively insightful art direction. As a result, the series turns in its best offering since Season 2’s near-perfect effort. Continue Reading →
The Morning Show
Aaron Sorkin learned the hard way that no one takes TV as seriously as TV people. When he followed up his critically acclaimed The West Wing, a show about the inner workings of the White House, with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip he discovered that you can’t treat everything with the gravity of a cabinet meeting and the wit of a theater major who gets straight Bs. His backstage drama about a fake sketch show pleased no one. When he tried to course correct with The Newsroom he tried to portray the American news media out to be brave warriors for the cause of truth. Both shows have lived rich second lives as meme generators about what Andrew Sarris would call "strained seriousness." Continue Reading →
The 2019 adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 novel Good Omens was a charming show that succeeded in translating the book’s strengths and weaknesses to the small screen. It was clever like the book, with an ingenious plot (what if there had been a mix-up at the hospital and the Antichrist went home with the wrong family) that parodied The Omen while conjuring an apocalyptic tale all its about an angel and demon whose millennials-long rivalry grew from mutual antagonism, to grudging respect, and finally admiration and even a kind of love. But it also carried over the book’s weaker elements, its wonky pacing, plurality of uninteresting characters, and the fact that the first two thirds of the story is essentially table setting for the final third. Continue Reading →
Near the homestretch of John Slattery’s small-town dipshit crime saga, Maggie Moore(s), a police chief (Jon Hamm), chides his colorfully quippy co-worker (Nick Mohammed) with the overly direct criticism that he has “no concept of when it’s ok to tell a joke.” It’s an understandable retort given the morbidity of their current case—two women with the same name gruesomely killed a few days apart, one dispatched in a way that could be legally described as murder by arson. Continue Reading →
Jon Hamm is a darn good comic actor, and he's a darn good comic actor with range. In Top Gun: Maverick for instance he played Naval Airboss Cyclone's abiding sternness and exasperation with Maverick for solid straight man work. Confess Fletch—which Hamm leads as unlicensed detective Irwin Maurice "Fletch" Fletcher (previously played by Chevy Chase in 1985's Fletch), by contrast, sees the Mad Men star go quietly goofy to strong effect. Even in a film packed with colorful and more openly eccentric weirdos, Hamm's Fletch is an odd man. Continue Reading →
Top Gun: Maverick
Navy Captain Peter "Pete" Mitchell, callsign "Maverick" (Tom Cruise) is a living legend. He is the only man to have shot down multiple enemy planes in the modern era of combat aviation. From the F-14 Tomcat to bleeding-edge skunkworks stealth plane prototypes, there is nothing he cannot fly, nothing he cannot (or more accurately will not) push past the fabled Danger Zone. Continue Reading →
Come back to a simpler time. A time when people were left shocked and awestruck when a remarkable pop culture event occurred, one that dumbfounded many and helped inspire a cultural shift, one where viewpoints that had previously been derided and ignored were placed at the center of an increasing number of narratives. Continue Reading →
While there are many ways to adapt material to another medium, there do seem to be two prominent schools of thought. Some want adaptations of existing works to take the source material as a jumping-off point. The original text should inspire the creators of the new media, but should make their own perspective felt. On the other hand, there are those that crave pure accuracy. They want the new piece to resemble the original as closely as possible, in tone, point of view, and style. Continue Reading →
Wild Mountain Thyme
An adaptation of his play Outside Mullingar, which was panned by Irish critics, John Patrick Shanley’s Wild Mountain Thyme follows a pair of neighboring farmers as they try to find love despite an ongoing land dispute they get caught up in. When the trailer to this film came out, it was immediately mocked for awful accents and a questionable depiction of Ireland. From watching, it turns out those criticisms were correct. This is a soulless film that does little more than create some pretty shots for the Irish tourist board. Continue Reading →