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For millions of teenagers around the country the penultimate moment of high school is the senior prom. Only graduation follows this event as the literal capping event of the all important high school experience. From a personal point of view I went to a school that technically oriented and all male so socializing events like proms were not as all encompassing as it would be if there was a female component to our student body. Still, I can approach flicks about this particular rite of spring from a vantage point similar to that of a sociologist or anthropologist preparing a scholarly dissertation on a strange and different culture. This is the mind set I tried to achieve while watching the latest teen comedy flick to emerge from the Walt Disney studio; ‘Prom’. Since I had no personal basis to consider the story I had to rely on this approach in conjunction with extrapolating the movies’ effectiveness in reaching the target demographic of tween and teen girls. Included the young group, tweens, in the mix since most teenage girls in the prom the age depicted in the flick is probably too busy planning their own prom to sit and watch a movie about proms. In typical Disney fashion this movie is a delight and eminently enjoyable no matter which age bracket you happen to find yourself. Teen faire has been migrating to more ‘cutting edge’ with even examples of teen oriented entertainment on television feeling obligated to tackle themes as sexual identity, bulling, drugs, and most recently, the supernatural. It is refreshing to see a film about regular kids engaging in readily identifiable activities. Thankfully there are no vampires or werewolves present to serve as truly bad relationship choices, just the normal horrors of high school common to most of us. There is just a certain air of innocence pervading this movie that is exceptionally rare lately. While Disney has several made for cable films and original television series that mine the infatuation with monster dating this studio obviously do not feel an overwhelming need to exclude exploring more traditional lines of plot devices. There is nothing at all wrong with a movie that offers nothing other than a couple of hours of fun and this one aptly succeeds in that goal.

Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden) is a senior in her high school and during the years easily rose in social status to become one of the most popular girls in the school. In fact she current holds the position of senior class president. One of the responsibilities of that office is to plan the upcoming prom, a task she dutifully and gladly takes on with her friends; Mei (Yin Chang), Ali (Janelle Ortiz), Brandon (Jonathan Keltz), and Rolo (Joe Adler). The trials and tribulations endured by these kids are routine so the balance of comic and dramatic effect will naturally be most evident to the teens watching. We adults may have to stretch our recollections to remember how such social matters were perceived in the moment as the direst aspects of life. The plot devices included here are long the lines of a pending breakup looming over Mei and her boyfriend Justin (Jared Kusnitz) for the familiar reason of her acceptance to an out of town college. Another student, Tyler (De'Vaughn Nixon) is in deep trouble with his steady, Jordan (Kylie Bunbury), over a single earring she found in his car that was not hers. One of the most notable departures from what has become standard is the way the unpopular, isolated kid, Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) is depicted. Instead of a mass murderer in the making he is shown to be a good big brother giving his step sister, Tess (Raini Rodriguez) some solid advice. She has not been asked to prom so Lloyd encouraged her to seize the initiative and ask someone herself. Imaging a high school flick devoid of disgruntled teens in black dusters and an ammo belt; I thought such things were lost in the tide of sensationalism. The local bad boy is Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell) whose worse offence is riding his motorcycle on campus. This situation is addressed by Principal Dunnan (Jere Burns) without the need to involve S.W.A.T. his idea to resolve Jesse’s issue with socialization is to have him work on the prom committee making a condition for graduation t ensure compliance with the rebellious young man. In predicable fashion Nova’s boyfriend Brandon is unable to take her to prom leave the perky girl stuck to find a suitable, last minute replacement; not an easy task considering all the acceptable boys are already committed. If you are unable to write the remainder of the script then I hope you remember where you parked your space ship because you have never seen a teen comedy before.

Sure this is a ‘paint by numbers’ production but it is such a departure from the heavy handed themes typically found in teen flicks that I am willing to cut the filmmaker a little slack. The director, Joe Nussbaum has some pertinent prior experience helming other light hearted teen romps including ‘Sydney White’ and ‘Sleepover’. He also directed the more typical ‘R’ rated college set flick, ‘American Pie Presents The Naked Mile’. Movies like ‘Prom’ indicates he is willing to put aside the cheap and easy comic path by eschewing sex and drugs oriented humor for a family friendly albeit predictable story line. Helping matters considerably here is the cast of unknowns expedites audience identification. This movie is even paced and ultimately a fun time for all.

Posted 08/21/11

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