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The Independent Critic

Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, Christine Elise, Nicholas Braun, DeVaughn Nixon, Yin Chang, Faith Ford, Jere Burns
Joe Nussbaum
Katie Wech
Rated PG
104 Mins.
Walt Disney Studios
"Last Chance Lloyd" exclusive short; Deleted Scenes; Music Videos; Bloopers; Putting on Prom;

 "Prom" Review 

I never went to prom. In fact, I never even dated in high school. Much like Lloyd (Nicholas Braun, Sky High), I was a painfully shy outcast who probably waited too long to even consider going and then never had the balls to actually ask anyone.

With Prom, Disney gives us a film that has the look and feeling of a production that would usually be found on the Disney Channel, a sugary sweet and friendly yet bland look at what one character purports the one night in a high school career when labels, cliques and biases don't matter.

Apparently, she never went to Pike High School in Indianapolis.

Featuring a myriad of what Disney likely hopes will be up-and-coming yet largely unknown actors and actresses, Prom centers around the teenage dramas that build up in the days leading to "Starry Night," the prom in this Michigan subbing for California high school.

Prom lives and breathes and ultimately gets my ever so slight recommendation on the basis of tame yet appealing performances by its arguable co-leading characters, Nova (Aimee Teegarden, Scream 4 and Friday Night Lights) and Jesse (young Johnny Depp lookalike Thomas McDonell, Twelve), your stereotypical Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson style mismatched, maybe matched duo. Nova is the class president, class brain and all-around popular girl who works hard, believes in school spirit and who badly wants a magical experience for prom. Jesse is the school's bad boy, who may or may not graduate and who finds himself assigned to helping Jesse recreate prom decorations after a fire destroys the original decorations three weeks before the big event.

What, oh what will happen?

Um. Yes. You know.

There's not an ounce of unpredictability to be found in Prom's 104-minute run time, a fact perhaps a bit more disturbing by the fact that so many of the characters are likely to remind you of other characters from teen flicks past including a number of John Hughes' films.

While many critics are likely to fault Disney, first-time screenwriter Katie Wech and director Joe Nussbaum for not giving Prom much of a spark beyond the most timid love triangle of all time, it's actually a bit refreshing to have a genuinely good-hearted (if saccharine), gentle spirited and sweet film. This is all the more true, because Teegarden and McDonell are an absolute delight, infusing their characters with more authenticity than is evident in the script and such winning appeal that you can't help but find yourself hoping that it all works least for this one big event in life.

Prom is ultimately a collection of moments, some convincing and some far from convincing. There are times when Prom is a joy to behold and a blast to watch, while there are moments when you're sitting there wondering why they didn't just stick the film on the Disney Channel and be done with it. On more than one occasion, Prom felt like a Saved by the Bell feature film.

The moments that really work?

The look on Nova's face when she enters the workroom and realizes that Jesse has fixed a fountain...

The pained look on the face of Nova's father (Dean Norris) when he realizes perhaps he's made the wrong choice in trying to protect his daughter...

A Michael Cera like moment as young hottie Simone (Danielle Campbell (TV's Prison Break) teaches guitar to her nerd boy semi-secret admirer (Nolan Sotillo)...

Really, there are others. There are moments in Prom where you get the feeling that screenwriter Katie Wech has quite the future ahead of her if she can add a bit more spark and originality to her dialogue. There are moments in Prom where director Joe Nussbaum, who has floundered since first getting notoriety for George Lucas in Love, shows a nice gift for pacing and likely wringing more out of the film than actually exists.

There are a seemingly endless array of other characters, too many really, ranging from the school's star athlete and his girlfriend, Tyler (DeVaughn Nixon) and Jordan (Kylie Bunbury), to Rolo (newcomer Joe Adler), who would be the film's stoner if this weren't a Disney film. A nerdy bromance exists between Corey (Cameron Monaghan) and Lucas (Sotillo), which bares more than a little resemblance to virtually any film starring Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. There's also a couple, Mei Kwan (Yin Chang) and Justin (Jared Kusnitz), dealing with the looming college separation drama.

Yep, virtually every possible drama captured with as little drama as humanly possible.

Box-office prospects would seem to be rather light for this decidedly low-key entry in the Disney stable, a film that has been primarily promoted inside the Disney media network and only minimally in mainstream outlets. A half-empty auditorium for the film's Indy promo screening doesn't really bode well for the film's box-office chances, especially given that teens exiting the theater were vocally not impressed with the film. On the other hand, comments overheard from the film's tweener audience was noticeably more positive and, perhaps, this will allow the film at least decent box-office on opening weekend as it opens with the simply horrid Hoodwinked, Too and the inevitable box-office winner, Fast Five.

Likely to be much more successful once it hits home video and the Disney Channel, Prom features a few relatively new and promising young actors and actresses in what may prove to be an only modestly successful film that should still earn them enough praise to make a good impression at Disney. While Prom sure isn't a great movie, it's definitely a great career move for Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell and others.

Maybe I should have gone to the prom after all.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic