When Trailers Hit Mute on the Musical

Regina George has a secret. She sings.

Despite what its marketing might suggest, “Mean Girls” (in theaters), the latest in a set of pink-accented nesting dolls, is irrefutably a movie musical. Adapted from the 2018 Broadway musical, which was itself based on the 2004 film, which was in turn inspired by the 2002 nonfiction book “Queen Bees and Wannabes,” this new version has singing. It has dancing. It has one delectable moment in which the members of the school marching band raise their saxophones and tubas high.

Barring a split-second shot of the band, you wouldn’t know that from the film’s trailers. The first trailer, from November — set to Olivia Rodrigo’s “get him back!” — included no original music. It was made to look instead like a vaguely edgier remix of the 2004 film.

The second trailer, which arrived on Jan. 3, offers a line or two of “Meet the Plastics,” then cedes the soundtrack to a new song, a collaboration between Megan Thee Stallion and Renée Rapp, who plays Regina, the suburban high school’s apex predator. That song, “Not My Fault,” is admittedly in the actual movie. It plays over the credits.

These “Mean Girls” trailers join “Wonka,” which opened Dec. 15 and “The Color Purple,” which opened on Christmas Day, as films that have spent much of their marketing budget downplaying and disguising their vexed status as movie musicals. At the close of the “Wonka” trailer, Hugh Grant’s Oompa-Loompa threatens to break into song, only for Timothée Chalamet’s Wonka to say, “I don’t think I want to hear that.” This from a character who invents a chocolate that makes people burst into song!

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