REVIEW: Prom [2011]

Score: 3/10 | ★

Rating: PG | Runtime: 104 minutes | Release Date: April 29th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director(s): Joe Nussbaum
Writer(s): Katie Wech

“What are you, his peer counselor or something?”

Please Disney, give me overwrought angst, earnest adolescents, and a stereotypical high school melting pot of checked sexuality within a PG world. Moviegoers have been clamoring for it, haven’t they? Why give us gimmicks like High School Musical when you can lay it all out in an overly dramatic rendition worthy of after school special timeslots? Please help make stressed out seniors everywhere stop biting their nails over lame music and a disco ball. Thank you Joe Nussbaum and Katie Wech for bringing us Cliché, the answer to our prayers.

Wait a second. I think I got something wrong. Oh, this movie is called Prom. It’s an easy error to make if you’ve seen it, but I won’t be the one recommending that you do. Yes, even if you have a couple tweener girls at home cutting out Justin Bieber images and pasting him to their mirrors—it’s not worth it. Go rent American Teen instead because no matter how much of its documentary is ‘staged’, it still gives you real people living the clichés Prom only tries to emulate. Between the emotional cornucopia of lame relationship tropes and the obvious young, rough around the edges actors, tedium becomes the ultimate winner in the end.

Let’s just name a few of the pithy character subplots:

1. Overachieving class president/valedictorian (Aimee Teegarden’s Nova) must save prom with the help of a brooding yet misunderstood bad boy (Thomas McDonell’s Jesse).

2. Lacrosse star and inevitable Prom King (DeVaughn Nixon’s Tyler) is outed as the womanizer he is and we can only hope his girlfriend and inevitable Prom Queen (Kylie Bunbury’s Jordan) finds out before the big night.

3. Studious and ‘it’ couple since Middle School (Yin Chang’s Mei and Jared Kusnitz’s Justin) slowly deteriorate because of the secret she is hiding that only makes us question the strength of their love.

4. Nice guy wallflower (Nicholas Braun’s Lloyd) decides he needs to find a date last minute, only to see the pool has dried up as his awkwardness gets too awkward for even him.

5. Eccentric stoner (Joe Adler’s Rolo) talks and talks about his girlfriend from Canada and the whole class waits with baited breath to see the car crash of reality at the dance.

A couple sophomores get caught in the crossfire (Nolan Sotillo’s Lucas, Danielle Campbell’s Simone, and Cameron Monaghan’s Corey), parents (a cavalcade of familiar television faces) intervene for heartstring tugged moments of help and sabotage, and we hate ourselves for actually buying into the premise enough to single out characters to label with names from our own high school many years ago. At least the music was pretty good, mixing some guilty pleasure in Neon Trees with some indie cred from The Naked and Famous and Shout Out Louds, topped by the surprisingly inspired, blew my mind inclusion of “Too Late” by M83.

There are some bright spots, though, and maybe three genuine laughs along the way. Despite Adler’s caricatured performance—his over-the-top flighty persona probably proving the actor has never smoked pot in his life—I did find him endearingly cute; Braun excels playing pretty much the same role he had in Sky High—minus the superpowers—and nails the spastic nerd with horrible luck; and I even didn’t mind McDonell’s vintage motorcycle riding, leather jacket clad miscreant. His Jesse isn’t the best portrayal of sensitive softy wrapped in tough guy attitude, but it works playing opposite Teegarden’s lofty expectations to foster everyone’s prom dreams as she loses sight of the important things in life. But this film is called Prom, so if that isn’t the biggest night for everyone involved, the filmmakers took a very wrong turn.

Most other stuff falls into cringeworthy territory, however, from the Starry Night fiasco to the unbelievably lame ‘Kranston’ face sucking to the unfortunate sophomore geeks unknowingly being used as pawns for senior games of bedding hot girls. Monaghan gets a couple nice moments, especially opposite his mother, but definitely not enough to save him from the absolute bottom-rung of geekdom his character exists on. It’s sad too because no one really comes out as being better than the nerd chic besides the King & Queen. Thankfully he gets what’s coming to him and she somehow ends up being the only ‘real’ role throughout, giving high school girls a strong feminine exemplar to eventually look up to.

The rest goes into obvious patterns and contrived webs of deceit, love, hate, forgiveness, misunderstanding, etc. Nothing if not saccharine, the characters fight their battles and end where they should—all set to a Cranberries remake by Passion Pit. So embellished and seen through a filter of unrealistic expectations, it comes off as more cartoon than mirror of life. Everyone gets an opportunity to find themselves despite stereotypes or preconceptions, culminating in the kiss we’ve been waiting for since the opening sequence of poster hanging. I just wish they could have filmed the smooch more than once because it looks like there is hair caught between their pressed lips. Maybe the two stars couldn’t stand each other enough to give a second take. I can’t really blame them; they probably wanted to collect their paychecks as soon as humanly possible.

[1] Thomas McDonell as Jesse with Aimee Teegarden as Nova in Walt Disney Pictures’ Prom.
[2] Yin Chang, Jared Kusnitz. Ph: Richard Foreman Jr., SMPSP. ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
[3] Kylie Bunbury, De’Vaughn Nixon. Ph: Richard Foreman Jr., SMPSP. ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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