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PROM pushes the boundaries of the Mouse as far as possible

April 29th, 2011

Film: PROM
Director: Joe Nussbaum
Cast: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonnell, Jonathan Keltz, Nicholas Braun

A little Say Anything, a little Pretty in Pink, a little American Pie (the clean parts, at least) and whole lot of The Breakfast Club, Disney’s Prom mixes and matches from the great coming of age teen films before it to create a safe and idealistic teen film that may not resonate with the high school audience, but will hopefully be a fun and uplifting film for the tween crowd. Stretching Disney to its liberal limit, director Joe Nussbaum works within the confines of the big mouse to portray a realistic high school experience with dating, broken hearts, and new found independence, all while attempting to navigate the unpredictable terrain of four of the most identity-shaping years in any person’s life.

With fourteen principal cast members consisting of both new and young experienced actors, the film centers on Brookside High student Nova, played by Aimee Teegarden, who is head of the prom planning committee (well, any committee for that matter) and her newfound relationship with school bad boy Jesse, played by Thomas McDonell. Throw in Nicholas Braun’s Lloyd, who lives his dating life by the old adage to keep swinging, Jonathan Keltz’s Brandon, Nova’s male counterpart in school spirit who just doesn’t seem to notice her signals, and Nolan Sotillo’s Lucas, who tries to juggle his relationship with a new girl and his best friend. Throw in a cheating jock, a gossip queen, the perfect couple who face a decision, the little sister who can’t wait for her own prom and the parents that aren’t ready to let go, and you’ve got Prom, a film that does its best to reach all audiences, as long as they’re straight, middle class, drug and alcohol free and don’t mind not talking about sex or peer pressure, like, ever. Let’s remember this is Disney.

Newcomer McDonell was most likely cast for his Johnny Depp meets Taylor Lautner brooding look, but he gets the job done, holding his own as Jesse, the troublemaker who really doesn’t make any trouble. Friday Night Light’s Aimee Teegarden is the perfect picture of an all-American high school student with outstanding grades, a supportive family, an academic college scholarship and a seat on every club in high school. Still, Nova retains her likability for the most part by being friendly to all students, even *gasp* the goths. Except for her obvious disdain for Jesse, with his anti-Prom stance (*gasg*gasp*), which doesn’t last for long after the two are thrown together after Brookside’s Principal forces Jesse to work with Nova on prom decorations as punishment for skipping classes.

While Prom isn’t going to break down the doors on stereotypes or the homophobia, racism and bullying that continues to plague high schools across North America and beyond, there are definite messages of empowerment. This is particularly true in the case of Kylie Bunbury’s Jordan, who stands up to her shady boyfriend and opts instead for rolling solo to the prom. Now that’s some girl power.

While Prom will most likely be panned by critics and judged overly harshly for its innocent portrayal of high school and teens in 2011, let’s not forget that amidst the news stories of tragic bullying, drug and alcohol abuse and unprotected sex happening in high schools around the world, sometimes a safe, optimistic, feel-good movie is just what we need to keep going. Because let’s not forget, those are some rough four years.

Rating: 3 glasses of (un-spiked) punch out of 5

Check out our interview with the cast of Prom here!

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