Like the high school dance it’s titled after and takes its climax from, Disney’s Prom is a pleasantly satisfying, yet underwhelming experience absent larger meanings and grandiose payoffs. Through pomp and circumstance, hype and hope, Starry Nights and sunny afternoons, it primps and prepares to make memories but only achieves something slightly better than mediocrity.
Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden) has been preparing for prom her entire life. Class president and head of the dance committee, she’s determined to turn her Starry Night theme into the best dance her high school has ever seen, but after the decorations are lost in a fire and her crush Brandon (Jonathan Keltz) first asks her to carpool and then bails, she’s wondering, for the first time in her life, if maybe the hard work wasn’t worth it. Enter Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell). He’s the resident broken home bad boy from her neck of the woods, and he’s been assigned to help Nova finish before time runs out. Brooding, rebellious and the type of guy women might refer to as a project, he slowly opens up about life on the wrong side of the tracks, melting hearts and looking more and more like a potential prom date in the process. If only he could be convinced to go. Nova knows what she has to do.
Simone Danielles (Danielle Campbell) isn’t sure what to do. Presumptive prom king Tyler Barso (DeVaughn Nixon) broke her heart once before, but now he’s standing at the door offering prom tickets and asking for forgiveness. He can’t be trusted, but maybe things will be different now that his girlfriend Jordan (Kylie Bunbury) is out of the picture. Saying yes would require standing up requisite good guy Lucas (Nolan Sotillo) and the concert date they’d made. Saying no would likely mean an end to any chance she might have with the first boy she loved. When in doubt, go for the prom date.
At least that’s what poor, hapless Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) thinks. His sister convinced him to find a nice girl, but thus far, those pesky propositions have resulted in a lot of embarrassing no’s. He tried cutting letters out of a newspaper and forming the question, but that made him look like a serial killer. He tried using Post-It notes on a windshield, but too many people drive the same car. He tried just walking up and asking, but more women have boyfriends than you might expect. At least Nova has her sights set on someone. Lloyd would go with anyone.
All of this frantic, pre-prom prep work varies sharply in terms of watchability, but that’s to be expected in an ensemble piece with five or six simultaneous story lines happening at once. There’s just no way to achieve uniform quality in a high school comedy, but as a general rule, all of the plotlines improve as the title dance approaches. Actions take on more meaning and characters develop enough to become relatable. If only they were more interesting.
That’s the primary problem with Prom, and the reason why it likely won’t turn into the cult classic so many other teen comedies have. There’s just nothing particularly exciting or endearing about any of these personalities. Cliches are to be expected in a movie like this. Even most of the classics have a pothead, a princess, a nerd and a rulebreaker, but the difference between this film’s Nova and The Breakfast Club’s Claire is this one’s nothing more than a princess. Looking back, I won’t remember her name was Nova or that she was also class president. She’ll just be a girl in a long line of similar pretty girls from the right side of the tracks.
Even if it’s usually a letdown, prom is an event that needs to be attended. The film based on it is not, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a passable enough way to spend an evening.