Directed by: Joe Nussbaum
Cast: Aimee Teagarden, Thomas McDonell, DeVaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell, Nicholas Braun, Yin Chang
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Release Date: April 29, 2011
PLOT: A group of high schoolers experience different emotional ups and downs as they prepare for their school’s prom.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Having never been to prom before would help in appreciating the “magic” of this movie. Even college freshmen would be able to see through Prom, and witness the amount of fairy dust sprinkled around the real elements of this one night event.
EXPECTATIONS: It’s hard to look past the word “Disney” when reading up about a movie called Prom, and equally difficult to restrain uncertainty about the film’s authenticity. How delusional would its visions of prom be? How terrible would the soundtrack be?
Aimee Teagarden as Nova: The Disney princess at the center of this story, she’s another girl who strives for perfection, only to have those dreams bite her on his prude ass. In the beginning of the film, her swallowing of defeat is interesting for a split second – she screams into her mattress, and then walks over to her computer, as if everything is fine. She loses that compelling two-sidedness (an honest characteristic for every grade’s “perfect” girl), and instead becomes a usual forlorn lead, ironically afraid of the “ordinary.”
Thomas McDonell as Jesse Richter: Characters in Prom are aware that Jesse is a cliche of rebellion, though the script doesn’t make an effort at all to deny this. As pointed out by nearly everyone around him, he’s “misunderstood” and “angry.” Though no one calls him “a lame Judd Nelson sans cigarette burn scars,” that’s basically who he is. McDonell delivers his sassy dialogue with the same scowl of one of Timothy Olyphant’s weaker roles.
Rest of Cast: Being awkward is tough to overcome, but it’s tough to make believable. The two “Michael Cera-y” guys of this cast, Braun’s Lloyd character, and Sotillo’s Lucas, show that it’s not easy, as they do a forced mediocre job in the process, relying solely on stumbling words and “Gah!”. The girls of Prom aren’t too significant themselves. Prom favors some subplots more than others, and it’s fairly easy to see why.
TALKING: Disney still has hope for teenagers, as it naively believes that high schoolers would prefer to talk to each other at their respective houses than over the phone, through text messaging, or even Skype. Overall, the teenager dialogue is unsurprisingly half-true, and is even less real when the young men of the movie are put into awkward situations. Prom does have a few good lines, especially during its confrontational scenes. As Jesse’s mom says to him about his father’s tuxedo, “The tux may fit, but you’re still the bigger man.”
SIGHTS: Though its title is Prom, the film is less about the actual night, but the moments leading up to it. The actual soiree of fancy dresses, corsages, and awkward dances is shown for maybe fifteen percent of the film. It is worth noting that the elaborate “prom” proposals shown in a montage during the movie’s first act look eerily more like marriage propositions than a request for a fancy dance date.
SOUNDS: The Prom soundtrack features a whole mix CD’s worth of new tunes that usually aren’t so much hip as they are MTV superpop. Featured artists include M83, Taio Cruz, Oh Darling!, and Neon Trees. Travie McCoy, the bane of the modern pop universe, has his song “We’ll Be Alright” played during the credits, which features an excruciatingly lazy borrowing of the melody from Supergrass’ “Be Alright.”
BEST SCENE: When Rolo’s girlfriend Athena showed up, I laughed. And was glad I was incorrect in thinking Athena was just a name for his bong.
ENDING: Prince Charming finally gets the motivation to ask the princess to prom, people dance. Scenes of the after party, which involve the young men and women throwing up from too much alcohol intake, which foil their attempts at virginity losing, are not shown.
QUESTIONS: Really? No one else bothered to ask out the (very cute) class president? Should we assume that Lloyd is a reference to Lloyd Dobler, especially since the actor looks like a young John Cusack? Why is Tyler not burned at the stake for ruining the original prom decorations? Tyler burns down the shack, and the principal yells at Jesse in public for bringing a motorcycle onto the field? This would also be the perfect opportunity, obviously, to use Fountain of Wayne’s ballad “Prom Theme,” but this movie doesn’t have the cojones to surprise.
REWATCHABILITY: For the select audience members that are wooed by the costumes and teen romances, Prom must have some replay value. For those who know that Prom isn’t that special, the movie really is a one-time occasion.
The insecure teenagers of Prom don’t burst out into song whenever they are overcome by their emotions, but they probably should. The only difference between the general structure of Prom and that of movies like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, or even Aladdin, is that this film works with a whole assortment of characters, each of them going through their sterilized experiences that make up high school. It’s a little shocking that the film’s prom doesn’t call itself “When You Wish Upon A Starry Night” instead of just “Starry Night.” Blue birds don’t show up at the title event and sing to new Disney princess Nova, but you expect them. Everyone’s even got pearly white teeth, something you only see in movies like Aladdin.
It’s hard to look past the big “D” when taking in a movie like Prom (“D” for “Disney,” and coincidentally “delusional.”) Since Disney is working with live action and not animation, it has changed the wicked stepsisters to fellow classmates, and the big ball to a high school event. As stated above, it continues the idea of “true love” by making prom propositions look like marriage proposals (which is creepy), with prom standing as the end-all-be-all of high school social life. Apparently, you survive high school, you go to prom, and then nothing in your life will be as important until your wedding day.
At times, the script can offer up a good one-liner, which can alternate from funny or to-the-point. The on-screen leads, who look like they’re either fourteen or twenty-four, do an overall OK job, rarely making any of their characters stand out as unique human beings.
Though all of its magic dust congests up the film’s chances at providing teenagers something more grown-up, Prom is entertaining at times, but it’s nothing special.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10