Prom: Movie Review

A genial teen comedy set in the unreality of Disney High School.

The movie has a cheerful good nature and a solid cast of youngsters — including Aimee Teegarden and Thomas McDonell — but any resemblance between this and real high school is, of course, purely coincidental.

Walt Disney’s Prom breaks no new ground in the high school comedy genre, nor does it want to. The theory seems to be that if you cast perky young actors, who play their roles with the thorough conviction that this is all fresh, then equally young audiences will go along with it. They probably will at that.

Prom has a cheerful good nature and a solid cast of youngsters — few adults are around, and when they are, they only gum things up — so the modestly budgeted movie should attract teens and younger in theaters and, soon enough, in home entertainment. Any resemblance between this and real high school is, of course, purely coincidental.

The movie, written by Katie Wech and directed by Joe Nussbaum without condescension, charts the final weeks leading up to a senior prom. For Nova (Aimee Teegarden), this night means everything. As a firm champion of school spirit, class president and the prom’s chief organizer, she is determined everything will be perfect — right up until a fire destroys all the decorations and props.

So the principal assigns the school’s bad boy Jesse (Thomas McDonell) — you know this because his hair is long and he rides a motorcycle — to assist her rebuilding efforts. Naturally, they can’t stand each other, which can only mean romance is just around the corner. There is even a moment when Jesse takes off his shirt to expose hardened muscles where Nova actually gasps. Yes, she really does.

Other subplots include dark-haired beauty Simone (Danielle Campbell) torn between two guys with crushes on her; egotistical sports star and senior Tyler (DeVaughn Nixon), who already has a girlfriend in Jordan (Kylie Bunbury); and her chemistry lab partner, Lucas (Nolan Sotillo), a junior like herself. Meanwhile, Mei (Yin Chang) is working up the courage to tell longtime boyfriend Justin (Jared Kusnitz) she is going out of state for her higher education.

Running gags, as opposed to actual subplots, feature one gangly and shy senior’s (Nicholas Braun) quest to ask a girl — any girl — to the prom and another male student (Joe Adler) whose description of his prom date seems like a figment of his imagination.

Many of these stories need a surprisingly number of overheard conversations to move things along as the filmmakers struggle to contrive the “right” happy ending for each. Of course, the whole notion that one night can contain so many happy endings, not to mention the right ones, is suspect.

The film most definitely exists within the cocoon of the Disney version of teen life, where getting a dream date and perhaps passing algebra are the only problems a teen could possibly confront.

In the lead roles, Teegarden and McDonell display the acting chops to suggest the filmmakers might have reached for a less conventional, more dramatic story line. Indeed, the cast throughout plays its roles with enough conviction that the screenplay doesn’t do their characters justice.

Nussbaum’s crew works hard to maintain a fresh-scrubbed look to the school, its students and the small community that contains it. They succeed all too well. Couldn’t there have been at least one wall with graffiti?