Sunday, September 4, 2011

Disney's Prom a Pleasant Surprise

It's not often that I have kind words for the company of Disney, but with the release of this summer's teen film Prom, the company that generally rubs me the wrong way has put out a surprisingly enjoyable and sweet teen film about the most mythical night of high school - Prom.

Prom, a Disney original from a screenplay by Katie Wech, examines the final big night of high school in all its promise of drama and magic. Nova (interesting name) the senior class president of Brookside High has planned the perfect prom to finish off the perfect senior year. All is going well with the decorations and the theme, and the night will be perfect if only fellow student and committee member Brandon asks her to the dance they've been planning.

The movie is fleshed out in standard ensemble cast with various couples and their prom story lines filling out the opening scenes of the movie. A clever play - with music - of the tradition of asking a person to prom sets up the first act with all going according to plan. Standard stock characters like the perfect king/queen couple, the couple who've been "together forever," the lovable loser without a date, the underclassmen desperate to be a part of the magic, and, of course, the teen rebel with an air of mystery who is too cool for prom fill out the cast.

Certainly, the perfectly planned night will be anything but, and it only makes sense that the heroine Nova will be inadvertently thrown together with the anti-prom loner. Many obstacles will challenge Nova to carry out her mission of providing the perfect night for her classmates, even as she tries to ignore the personal conflict she has over who she's going to spend the evening with. Director Joe Nussbaum cleverly strings his scenes together building the drama over prom night in an engaging way. Additionally, there are enough nods to 1980s teen cinema that it's clear Nussbaum was paying homage to the Golden Age of teen film.

I was particularly pleased by how pleasant - and not over the top - this teen film was. It was engaging and funny and insightful, and also really sweet. Wech and Nussbaum manage to capture all the significant drama of the genre and the night without resorting to anything sordid or gratuitous. In fact, it was refreshing to be engaged in a teen film for 90 minutes with no scenes of teen drinking and literally no mention of teen sex. The drama was real and honest - but it very effectively focused on the simple emotions of adolescence, rather than the standard mediums of sex and alcohol. This film simply didn't need to go there.

Overall, Prom is an enjoyable film, and definitely worth the rental if you enjoy the genre. It's certainly not the best teen film in recent years - that honor goes to Easy A. However, it's a nice take on a traditional genre, and it gives me a little hope for the ability of Disney to provide quality and wholesome entertainment.

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