Sorry to break it to you, high schoolers, but prom won’t change your life—it’s just a dance. One of the refreshing aspects of Disney’s Prom is that it understands this simple truism. Only one character in the film is under the impression that the evening will be magical, and she’s the perky class president (played by Aimee Teegarden) who’s organizing the party. So of course she feels that way.
Teegarden is cute as a button, but her story arc is the most predictable and least interesting part of the movie, which is more authentic, funny and perceptive than I expected. Prom wants to be a 21st century John Hughes film, and while it doesn’t quite get there, it has its own charms.
The outcome of the central love story is a given; it’s the subplots that make the movie. There’s a hilarious running joke about a good-hearted but clueless senior whose inept attempts to find a date become progressively more cringe worthy. A senior couple mourning the inevitable end of their relationship manage to (mostly) avoid the cliches inherent in that premise. We also meet two nerdy sophomores whose friendship is tested when a Dream Girl gets between them.
These three story threads—the true heart of the film—reveal some painful truths about how cruel teens can be, on purpose or by accident.
Of course, because this is Disney there are limitations to how far the honesty goes: there’s no profanity, only one brief act of violence and no one even mentions sex and drugs, let alone doing them. Sound like your high school experience?
Still, it’s refreshing to see a movie about young people with no musical numbers, magic wands, vampire/werewolf rivalries or mad slashers on the loose. Instead, we get a gentler, more idyllic but every bit as entertaining cousin to Pretty in Pink. I’ll take it.