By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin April 29, 2011 at 4:30AM
Here’s a rare bird: a film made for “tweens” that actually takes young people and their emotions seriously, instead of playing them for cheap laughs. What’s more, Prom won’t make parents cringe by exposing their children to characters who flaunt inappropriate behavior—or wardrobe.
Screenwriter Katie Wech gathered stories from friends about their experiences leading up to that prized senior-year ritual, the prom. Her movie reflects that grounding in reality, as it surveys a broad spectrum of characters, including a Little Miss Perfect who’s taken responsibility for planning every detail of the dance, but doesn’t have a date yet herself…a star jock who takes it for granted that he and his girlfriend will be crowned King and Queen, even though he’s been cheating on her…a gawky boy who’s always been too shy to ask a girl out, let alone pursue one to—
—go to the prom…a guy who abandons his best friend when he goes ga-ga for a beautiful girl who shows some interest in him…and a rebellious senior who thinks everything about prom is silly and beneath him, until he’s forced to work on decorations as a kind of detention chore.
Under Joe Nussbaum’s direction, the tone of the movie is one of sweet sincerity: these are real kids, not glammed-up Disney Channel mini-divas or broad comic stereotypes. I suspect almost everyone in the audience (regardless of age) will recognize him or herself in at least one of the characters onscreen. Even the parents are played sympathetically!
Are some characters and situations simplified or idealized a bit? Of course; this is a PG-rated Disney movie, after all. But even within that arena I think Prom deserves credit for refusing to trivialize the feelings of high school kids, including issues of self-confidence, peer pressure, and the first flush of sexual attraction. The young actors, some of whom may be familiar to television viewers, are well-chosen and the look of the movie is as believable as the people in the foreground. Well done!