© 2011 Ray Wong
Prom, about high school seniors whose world seems to revolve around that one last dance, seems so sweet and old-fashioned that I had to look at its release date again to make sure it was, in fact, made today, and not 1982.
The story follows a group of teenagers as they get ready for their senior prom. Nova (Aimee Teegarden) is the class president who needs everything perfect. She has everything figured out, except she doesn't have a date. Varsity star Tyler (DeVaugh Nixon) is two-timing with sweet Simone (Danielle Campbell) behind his girlfriend Jordan's (Kylie Bunbury) back. Mei (Yin Chang) is torn between her long-time boyfriend Justin (Jared Kusnitz) and going to Parsons in New York. Meanwhile, Llyod (Nicholas Braun) has problems finding a prom date.
After the barn in which the decorations are stored is burned down, perfectionist Nova is forced to work with school rebel Jesse (Thomas McDonell) to get the prom ready in three weeks. Jordan, after realizing she's been cheated on, breaks up with Tyler, who immediately goes after Simone, who is wary of Tyler's philandering and is interested in her lab partner Lucas (Nolan Sotillo). Mei can't bring herself to telling Justin about her decision, and her secret is tearing her and Justin apart. And Llyod still has no luck finding a prom date.
Does it sound convoluted? Don't worry, the plot really is rather easy to follow in Katie Wech's (Dead Zone) script. Wech is an inexperienced TV scribe and it shows in her first movie screenplay. It has the feel of an overly long After School Special, with its stock characters and cliched plot. The perfect class president and the bad boy? We all know where that is going. The smart Asian girl and her equally smart boyfriend? Yeah, we know how that's going to play out. The love rectangle? Been there, done that. The characters are from a cookie-cutter, and they lack genuine depth and development.
The screenplay is filled with stereotypes, as if Wech had a check list of characters, relationships and circumstances. The dialogue is cliched, too, everything from "Get in my office. Now!" to "You'll do what's right for her if you love her." There's nothing unpredictable about the story. Everything works according to plan. We know from the first five minutes how everything is going to turn out at the end. There's no suspense or intrigue. It's as warm as a thawed fish.
That said, what saves this movie from utter disaster is the genuine emotions, as displayed adequately by the young actors. I wouldn't say they're brilliant, but they do their job. Aimee Teegarden (Scream 4) is perfectly cast as the pretty but "too smart for anyone" class president. Thomas McDonell (Twelve) effectively channels young Johnny Depp as the bad boy/love interest. They're well cast because they fit those stereotypes precisely. Can't we have a class president who is not pretty? Or the bad boy who looks like Zach Galifianakis? Fat chance. Why ruin a perfect teenage fantasy?
DeVaughn Nixon (Monster Heroes) is good as the cocky, popular jock but we never really get to know his character enough. He's the caricature. Danielle Campbell (The Poker House) is cute and sweet as Simone, the object of two guys' affection, but she's too passive and calm to make any strong impression. Yin Chang (Paper Girl) does a good job with her character, and Jared Kusnitz (Community) plays well as her frustrated beau. Nolan Sotillo (Madison High) and Cameron Monaghan (Shameless) look like best friends as Lucas and Corey respectively. And Nicholas Braun (Red State) offers some needed comic relief as the clueless Lloyd.
Director Joe Nussbaum (Sydney White) tries his best with the tepid, cliched material and a cast of young TV actors. The production has that TV movie of the week quality to it, but at least it's well paced. He succeeds in not confusing us with the multiple characters and story threads. Still, there's nothing unique or great about this, and the direction is bogged down by the old-fashioned story (as compared to the more contemporary high school romp, Easy A) and stereotypes.
I'll give the movie a C+ for its warm and fuzzy feeling, but a D for the cliched plot and characters. Now, with my final grade, we can all go to the prom.
Stars: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, DeVaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell, Yin Chang, Jared Kusnitz, Nolan Sotillo, Cameron Monaghan, Nicholas Braun
Director: Joe Nussbaum
Writer: Katie Wech
Distributor: Walt Disney
MPAA Rating: PG for mild language and a brief fight
Running Time: 103 minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 5.6 out of 10