Disney's Prom is to real high school what High School Musical was to West Side Story -- all fluff, no edge. That in itself is no sin, as even this "Disney Version" of high school -- kids obsessed with prom, prom dates, prom dresses, that "one perfect moment" -- will resonate with anyone who ever wondered how to wear a corsage, or where to buy one.
But it's a movie with a few charming moments and fewer funny ones, a coming-of-age comedy of recycled "types" re-used since the beginning of cinema -- the goody two-shoes who spends a whole year preparing for the big dance, the "rebel" on the motorcycle, the goofy stoner, the couple facing the end of their relationship thanks to differing college plans, the tall, gangly nice-guy who can't get a date, the adorable sophomore who has her first test of character when she has two offers for prom night.
Nova (Aimee Teegarden of Friday Night Lights and Scream 4) is an honors student who has kept a small crew on task the entire year, preparing for "Starry Night," the theme she picked for their prom. If only the utterly unromantic Brandon (Jonathan Keltz) would get around to asking her to the dance!
Jordan (Kylie Bunbury) and Tyler (DeVaughn Nixon) are everybody's heavy favorite for prom queen and king. But all isn't as it seems with them. The jock is a playa.
Mei (Yin Chang) can't bring herself to tell her forever-beau Justin (Jared Kusnitz) that she's been accepted at a different college and prom might be their last dance.
Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) is the shy guy nagged by his younger stepsister (Raini Rodriguez) into asking somebody, everybody, to the big dance.
Directed by Joe Nussbaum. Written by Katie Wech. A Walt Disney Pictures release, opening Friday at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons. Rated PG for mild language and a brief fight. Running time: 102 minutes.
Critic's rating: * *
Nova Prescott .......... Aimee Teegarden
Jesse Richter ........... Thomas McDonell
Boys stage elaborate and sometimes clever ways to pose the question "Prom?" to the girls. But Nova's big moment with Brandon is such a bust you'd swear the guy was staying home to watch Glee instead..
Thank heavens the decorations go up in flames, her entire work committee bails on her, and the cranky principal (Jere Burns) sentences the aloof, class-cutting Jesse (Thomas McDonell, a young Johnny Depp) to help her rebuild everything in mere weeks. The rebel and the girl he calls "Little Miss Sunshine" (not a compliment) set off a few sparks.
"You were about to kiss me."
"No I wasn't!"
Director Joe Nussbaum (Sydney White) has little flair for comedy, which seems fortunate, as there's precious little that's funny in Katie Wech's script. Several awkward moments pay off and a few performers make their mark. But by and large Prom is exactly what the prom-haters in the cast say it is, a lot of build-up for something that isn't remotely as "special" as those obsessed with it wish it to be.