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The Prom – Movie Review

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The Prom – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Netflix

There’s a lot of appeal with flashy musicals, especially ones with upbeat numbers and energetic songs. The Prom definitely fulfills that, although it also includes a nice story about tolerance and respecting that others might not conform to your long-held ideals. Inspired by a real-life controversial case where a teenage girl wasn’t allowed to bring her same-sex date to prom, the film does its job of being an entertaining picture with plenty of show-stoppers. While it can run a little long in the third act, director Ryan Murphy gives The Prom plenty of pizazz and spectacle, embracing its Broadway origins.

The Prom is essentially telling two stories. One is about Emma, the young lesbian who just wants to attend her prom with the person she loves. The other centers on the narcissistic actors trying to improve their image. Murphy is able to balance these two arcs, although the actors do take over after a while. There is plenty of humour in seeing the stage thespians showing off and Meryl Streep is even willing to make fun of her own image. Interesting enough, while Andrew Rannells is given the least to do, he might have some of the best musical numbers. There’s a particularly good one in a shopping mall where he points out the flaws of the Bible.

The heart of the movie belongs to Emma, though, played wonderfully by newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman. She is immediately sympathetic and Pellman captures the needed emotions she’s going through. There’s one shocking moment midway through that is genuinely heart breaking and Pellman sells it. The weak link of the cast is, unfortunately, James Corden. Watching him, it’s all too obvious he is a straight man playing this gay character and he relies entirely on stereotypes and camping it up. While he does okay with the scenes that require emotion, the whole performance feels fake. It’s difficult not thinking about how this role feels tailor made for someone like Nathan Lane, who would have brought a more natural charisma.

The songs, written by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, have plenty of pep and bounce. They are exactly the kinds of songs that anyone with an admiration for Broadway showtunes will listen to over and over again. Murphy and choreographer Casey Nicholaw handle the large ensemble of dancers and devise plenty of creative and fast-paced moves. The ways the sets are used also work, especially when the lighting go for a stagy feel. The first half is admittedly paced better than the second part, as more of the characters are separated and they go off on their own arcs. One character’s change also feels a little too sudden, considering her actions for much of the runtime. However, the movie still provides a decent number of smiles and the message is absolutely worthwhile.

The Prom is a light musical with an emphasis on putting together a bunch of show-stoppers. Ryan Murphy shows his skills at mounting these sorts of productions and the actors are certainly game with what they’re required to do. The song numbers are very enjoyable and will immediately make one want to pull up the songs on YouTube right after a viewing. Even with the big-name actors taking plenty of the spotlight, our interest is still primarily with Emma and her quest to have a prom just like everyone else. The movie’s celebration of inclusivity and respect is a lovely one and her story is beautifully explored.

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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