The person who made the musical choices for Prom should ask for a raise on their next project, as it features a fantastic soundtrack. And I hold the actors largely blameless for this effort, as they are game for varying degrees of perkiness followed by gloom which is immediately followed by perkiness. Ah yes, the vagaries of the teenage mind. So solid actors and some nice tunes, what's not to like? Sadly, plenty. The writing and direction are my main concerns here -- a crushingly average movie has been produced because the story lacks large amounts of both crucial factors. Prom somehow comes off as shallow, though it has about a dozen characters, and meaningless, though it's about the most "meaningful" day in a teen's life. Strange.
Prom begins three weeks before prom at Brookside High in Michigan. Nova, class president and all-around supergirl is hard at work on the prom decorations. She's decided to go with a "Starry Night" theme, clearly unaware that Van Gogh modeled the painting on the view outside his sanitarium room window. Or perhaps that's an apt metaphor for what awaits for the next 108 minutes, around 90 minutes too long, as characters flail about searching for anything resembling momentum. A minor case of accidental arson occurs, leaving Nova without decorations, and the prom theme is in doubt. Will it all come together? Will everyone find happiness? I'll leave you to your predictions.
All of the high school archetypes are present, as brought down from the mountain by John Hughes. The nerd, the rebel, the popular (though vapid) jock, and the overachiever who just wants a boyfriend. The introduction of each of these poor souls is clumsy and telegraphed. How do you know the rebel is rebellious? He rides a bike! He's got black fingerless gloves on! How do you know the nerd can't get a date to prom? He's named Lloyd! And so on. Still, all of the actors approach the thankless task with verve, and I'm certain we'll see a few of them go on to prominence. I particularly liked the work of Janelle Ortiz as Ali, her scenes came off as stylish and subtle, with more than couple laughs. And Aimee Teegarden (as Nova Prescott) oozed likability, if only the dastardly machinations on the screen hadn't done her in.
Of course, everyone has a problem. Nova's best friend won't ask her to prom, though she keeps dropping hints. The jock might be cheating on his girlfriend. A sophomore boy desperately wants to ask his lab partner to prom. The rebel is figuring out how to be a man in the absence of his father, who evidently exited stage left, leaving the rebel and his mom to work overtime to support the family. Ah yes, the lovely world of Disney, where the "bad guy" is always simply misunderstood, and not just a psychopath.
The rebel and Nova are the main characters here, but plenty of other folks get scenes too. To the film's detriment, it can't build up much in the way of momentum for Nova, and never have the stakes seemed so low for everyone involved. This is a sterile high school environment, lacking anything nearing controversy. If you're looking for a couple of light laughs and some new bands to listen to, then Prom might just fit the bill. If you're looking for a great and memorable film? Save that corsage for another day.