Thinking back on your high school days, most of the chaos seen in the latest iteration of Mean Girls is probably something you’ve not experienced. The turmoil and insanity from the mind of Tina Fey, directed by Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr, is an extension of Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 book, Queen Bees and the Wannabes, itself the basis for Mark Waters’ 2004 movie of the same name and a Broadway musical, thus leading to the version of the film about to hit theaters.

Fey, Jayne, and Perez lead a strong ensemble. Yet the most prominent question roaming down the halls of teenaged angst is, is Mean Girls the queen bee, or is it a wannabe?

For that, consider the cast. Angourie Rice plays Cady Heron. The story butchers Cady’s first name throughout the film as a running gag that runs its course quickly. Never mind that Cady is out of her element as a previously homeschooled student specializing in math. Early on, Rice plays the “deer-in-the-headlights” look effectively. Then she meets Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey), the two sanest characters to hatch a plan in recent cinema.

That Mean Girls is a musical does not detract from its storytelling. Jayne and Perez inventively lull us into a story, beckoning the audience to set their popcorn and phones down to enjoy it. The opening number is by far the strongest, and the rest of the story flows at the expense of its drama. However, this is high school – isn’t drama a requisite?

Momentarily digressing, Fey‘s screenplay sits between being the queen bee and a wannabe and ends up being neither. The third adaptation of Wiseman’s novel uses elements from the 2004 movie and the Broadway musical; there is a significant amount of energy in its trappings with nowhere to go.

Mean Girls’ weakest element is in Reneé Rapp’s Regina George, the prototypical high school prom queen, an aspect of the characterization, not Rapp’s performance. The entire student body fears Regina’s wrath, and her “squad,” comprised of Karen Shetty (Avantika) and Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Wood), only serves to elevate Regina’s downward glance; there is so little depth to Regina’s character that all Rapp can do is be vicious when she feels threatened.

Between putting Karen and Gretchen down, Regina gains a new prey in the impressionable Cady. Rice anchors the story dramatically while Cravalho and Spivey carry the musical numbers. Tim Meadows as Principal Duvall is a highlight; Fey, Jayne, and Perez are far more interested in driving the musical pizzaz than in character development and the drama that made the original Mean Girls a much stronger film.

Even the diversion of Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), the prototypical prom king, isn’t enough to bring meaning to Cady’s advances, attracting Regina’s attention. Mean Girls remains edgy while exuding confidence from its first-time directors; it still struggles to finish.

Mean Girls feels like a stalemate. Cady learns her lesson, and within the “animal kingdom” of high school, she learns her place. Mean Girls teaches a valuable lesson in navigating the social waters to find self-confidence and the inner strength to be your own individual. The musical numbers scurry and the film’s framing conveys its intended emotional impact.