Judge Gordon Sullivan wants to mandate helmets for movie viewers under ten.
Who are you going with?
They say you have to walk before you can run, and Disney's Prom (Blu-ray) is making me wonder if the same might be true for films. Before you can appreciate the greatness of some films, maybe you need to be introduced to the genre gradually. If so, more mature films would be well served by viewers coming from Prom. This film is definitely a tweener's vision of the prom, whereas high school in general (and prom in particular) is more realistically depicted for older viewers in films like 10 Things I Hate About You, American Pie, The Breakfast Club, or Dazed and Confused. Prom is not a great film, or even a particularly serious one, but it acts for younger audiences like great training wheels for better films to come.
Facts of the Case
Strap on your rose-colored glasses, folks, and remember the joys of those final few weeks of high school. We've got Nova (Aimee Teegarden), a smart young woman who has organized her high school's prom. She's still waiting for that special boy to notice her, though. Meanwhile, the shed with all the prom decorations burns down, and there's no one to help Nova rebuild. No one, that is, except for bad boy Jess (Thomas McDonell, The Forbidden Kingdom) who is forced to help with prom against his wishes by the principal. Sparks, quite naturally, fly. The rest of the cast is a motley of high school types suffering (or, occasionally, enjoying) the roller coaster ride that is prom season.
Wisdom says that horror films are truly critic proof, and that may be true. However, Prom belongs with the best (and worst) horror flicks for being completely critic proof. Nothing I or anyone else can say will really matter in the face of the sheer openness and lack of guile on display here. Prom wears its heart on its sleeve, not like it's never been broken, but like it doesn't even understand that such a thing could happen. It's a bright, frothy film that treats prom like a life-or-death rite of passage, and the combination of sincerity and lightheartedness with which the film treats it leaves viewers helpless in its wake. Hating on Prom seems like hating on cute puppies and those who help old ladies cross the street.
Obviously the film nails its tone quite easily, but the real strength in the flies with the choice of focusing on no one in particular. This is truly an ensemble movie, and the cast rises to the occasion. Each of the half dozen or so stories has a pretty clear beginning, middle, and end, and all of them conclude in a satisfying (if not surprising) way. The fact that the film can bounce from one story to the next keeps it from getting bogged down by any one thread, and the fact that all the stories are pretty equally compelling keeps viewers from waiting for the "main" characters to reappear.
The cast also do an excellent job inhabiting these (let's face it) stereotypes. Disney often casts kids who look (and act) a bit generic, but with Prom they've gathered a set of young actors who really make these characters stand out. Teegarden as Nova deserves special praise for somehow avoiding the annoyance that a bubbly character like hers usually produces. Nicholas Braun also did a good job bringing something new to the guy who's always awkward around the ladies.
Disney is pretty reliable about their releases for their bigger films, and Prom is no exception. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer comes from a digital source; the flick was shot on the Arri Alexa, a high end digital camera. If this is the way digital is going, then bring it on. Everything about Prom looks good. Colors are evenly and deeply saturated, black levels are dark and consistent, and detail is high across the board. Most impressive is the lack of noise; even in the darker scenes we don't see little specks, black crush, or any compression artefacts. In slight contrast is the DTS-HD 5.1 surround track. It's not a bad track, but after the giddy heights of the video transfer, the audio feels a bit terrestrial. In its defense, dialogue is clear and well-balanced with the film's use of music, and the occasional uses of the surrounds for atmosphere are appreciated.
Extras start with a 10-minute mini-film about Lloyd that appears to cobble together material deleted from the film into a short about Lloyd's luck with the ladies. It's cute, but easy to see why it was cut. Next up is a short (six-minute) featurette on the making of the film, followed by eight minutes of deleted scenes. There are a few minutes of bloopers for fans of flubs, and the disc rounds out with seven different music videos for songs featured in the film. It's an impressive collection, and everything but the making-of and blooper reel are exclusive to the Blu-ray release. This set also includes a DVD copy of the film, though strangely there's no digital copy.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I won't kick any puppies or laugh at those helping old ladies across the street, but I will admit that Prom is a pretty generic movie. If you have seen at least one other teen movie then pretty much nothing about Prom will come as a shock. It's still a bunch of kids treating a single moment as if it will define the rest of their lives when in fact they'll probably barely remember in two years, let alone ten. I still find a well-done teen movie compelling despite this quality, but those with little patience for the vagaries of teenage life will want to give this one a pass.
Prom is a light, fun film that's sure to keep the target audience sighing wistfully and planning for their dance debut. For the rest of us it's an above-average (though not quite classic) teen film that artfully combines a troop of standard characters in a solid set of love stories. The sharp presentation and decent extras make this an easy disc to recommend.
I'm going with not guilty.
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