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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'The Prom' Review: Ryan Murphy's Sparkly Musical Featuring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep & More

Nicole Kidman and Jo Ellen Pellman sitting on a bed

A big musical film that is adapted from a popular Broadway show, featuring one James Corden in its cast, which just happens to come out right at the end of the year? Ring any bells yet? Thankfully this year we’re talking about The Prom, directed by TV mega-producer Ryan Murphy and starring recognisable names like Meryl Streep (Dee Dee), Corden (Barry), Nicole Kidman (Angie) and Andrew Rannells (Trent) and couple young talents in Ariana DeBose (Alyssa) and Jo Ellen Pellman (Emma). Emma and Alyssa are high schoolers planning to debut as a couple at their prom in a narrow-minded town in Indiana while the former four Broadway stars look for charitable causes to up their public image and end up finding the teens’ prom cancelled. With a delightful opening, sweet message and entertaining ending, this party finds itself running for too long, being very harmless and mediocre.

That mediocrity is the nightmare that makes it hard to dissect some films in the first place. Some technical details, which are more important in a musical though, do make it feel a bit more worthwhile. Lighting team for example finds a sweet middle ground between Broadway, dramatic film lighting and usage of the ever-so-present rainbow colours which works in tandem with the set decoration by Gene Sardena.

The main cast works just fine looking at the big picture, special mention funnily is needed for Corden who follows up a career ruining performance in ’Cats’ to actually being the symbol for harmlessness here. Pellman is quite good in her first big role but we unfortunately don’t see enough of her, particularly because the film’s name is The Prom so you’d expect to see more of the teens. One thing about the actors comes with a shame tag since their vocals are overly pitch corrected, polished and drowned in harmonies, making them feel manufactured.

Another thing that isn’t as much about the actors themselves but about stuff they’re given is the godawful, Netflix-processed, should-stay-in-2002 casting. For a movie about a prom you’d be troubled to find a ’’teen’’ who doesn’t look like they can buy alcohol in America (21+). A bit of a personal tirade here but I’m so sick and tired of talking about this, not only specifically when it comes to Netflix projects which are the worst examples, but in general too. Character work is less important in this genre but flat personalities mixed with that casting is just disappointing. To make matters worse is that The Prom forces you to stay in that mindset for over two hours for some reason, the musical numbers are so forgettable and same-y that you really start to feel it at the 45 minute mark.

Even one finer thing would turn this into a recommendation—better songs, more believable characters, tighter edit, stand-out actor— but it's too bad that it wastes the message and will probably just disappear with zero impact.

Smileys: Lighting, set decoration

Frowneys: Casting, runtime, characterisation

Do you remember the song ’Bet On It’ from ’High School Musical’? That’s a banger. This movie needed that.


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