By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
When you call your movie Prom, it’s not characters or stars or relationships beckoning an audience. It’s that audience’s shared experience, whether present, past, or future.
Tuxes and gowns, dates and limos, corsages and boutonnieres, bands and themes, red carpets and red faces, coveting and bonding, whispers and glances, stresses and dances — and memories, good or bad, that last a lifetime.
Ah, prom. Short for promenade. Short for promise. Short for promotion into adulthood. Short for “just get me through this.”
And Prom allows its target audience — primarily youngsters with proms ahead of them, secondarily folks of age still carrying around the nostalgic memories — to bring their projections and fantasies and memories with them while the cast and crew apply respectable production values to the spring gathering without trying to reinvent the big wheel.
Proms can be antic, frantic, or romantic. We’ve seen them depicted in comedies like Grease, Back to the Future, Pretty in Pink, Never Been Kissed, 10 Things I Hate About You, American Pie, and Mean Girls. But we’ve also seen them in horror thrillers like Carrie and Prom Night. So they can be funny and they can be horrible and they can be both at the same time.
Prom is a comedy-drama about the one-night coming-of-age rite of passage near the end of the suburban high school year for a group of students going through crises that, all things considered, don’t amount to much in the way of urgency or momentousness. But there’s something important at stake in the eyes of the characters dealing with these seemingly mundane problems, just as there are or were or will be in the eyes of the pre-prom or post-prom viewers watching them.
An ensemble cast that includes relative newcomers Aimee Teegarden (above right), Thomas McDonell (above left), DeVaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell, Yin Chang, and Jared Kusnitz play out the expected character types — the goths and the straight arrows, the overachievers and the underachievers, the leaders and and the outcasts, the jocks and the nerds, the popularity contest winners and the invisible extras.
Director Joe Nussbaum (Sydney White) gets decent acting from most of his ensemble. Some of it is certainly on the self-conscious or precious side, but that happens not to be that big a drawback in fare this light.
The script by debuting screenwriter Katie Wech about prom season and the climactic event lacks edge (and frankly, isn’t much interested in going there), but within its idealized world juggles several comfortingly familiar plot lines, cutting back and forth among and between anecdotal stories, with an attention-deficit-disorder editing style that should prove both soothing and stimulating for the doing-lotsa-things-at-once younger generation.
Will Prom turn you back into a teenager for a couple hours? Maybe not. But current and soon-to-be teenagers should enjoy the communal experience of looking into a mirror that shows them just what they’ll be going through as it celebrates an intimidating event that’s tough to avoid, no matter how much you try, but that also delivers its share of touching moments.
So we’ll save the last dance for 2½ stars out of 4 for an inconsequential but pleasant who-do-I-take-and-what-do-I-wear dramedy that delivers for its intended audience.
Everyone else, proceed with caution. But pre-teens and teens, remain calm: Prom is no bomb.