Reel Reviews | The Prom

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Broadway goes to save the day when an Indiana prom is canceled because a girl is gay in The Prom.

It’s opening and closing night for the play Eleanor! based on the life of Eleanor Roosevelt so its stars Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden) are out of jobs.  Desperate to remake their image, they look for a cause to support and find Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman).  The PTA, run by Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), at Emma’s school has canceled the prom because Emma announced that she wanted to bring a girl as her date. So Dee Dee and Barry hitch their wagons to a crew bus headed to Indianapolis to present Godspell with their friend Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman) and Trent Oliver (Jamie Rannells) in tow with the intention of educating the hicks of Indiana, saving Emma’s prom and thereby creating positive buzz for their careers.  What could possibly go wrong?

Written by Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, and Matthew Sklar on an original concept by Jack Viertel, The Prom is a musical romantic comedy directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story).  It stars Streep, Corden, Kidman, Rannells, Pellman, and Washington with Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana DeBose, Kevin Chamberlin, Mary Kay Place, and Tracey Ullman.

Basically, the story is an LGBTQ version of Footloose.  The premise is so ridiculously the same.  For no good reason, a dance is canceled by parents.  There is a rebellion and then there is a dance.  Now The Prom is a little more complex in that it adds a discriminatory theme to it but the premise is still the same. 

Unlike Footloose where music was a backdrop, this movie is a musical.  So much like Glee, there are plenty of times when songs break out for conversation and expertly choreographed dance scenes with strangers back them up.  A lot of the songs especially in the beginning are very comical and silly but as the story develops so do the messages of the songs.  The problem is whenever you have a musical set in high school visions of High School Musical come to mind.  There are not a lot of them but every time one does happen, the next thing we expect to hear is a “Wildcats” shout.

Check out Tim Gordon’s Reel Review, below:

The casting of the movie is very good.  Meryl Streep is fantastic and funny as the self-absorbed, limelight-obsessed, Broadway star, Dee Dee Allen who has lost a bit of touch with her humanity and possibly herself due to a messy divorce.  She’s not washed up but is rapidly heading in that direction which inspires her to take up Emma’s cause.  Oscar-winner Streep’s career, not her personality, may reflect a little of Dee Dee which makes it easy to buy.  And Ms. Streep does Broadway delightfully!

There are some moments when Corden’s character seems a little spot on as well.  The scene where he describes growing up feels really genuine as Corden is speaking something from his real life.  Kidman, Washington, Key.  Each one is magical in their own way.

The real star though is newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman who plays Emma Nolan.  Pellman, who has never played more than bit parts previously, is outstanding in her movie debut.  She sings no less than 11 songs in the movie and is heartbreakingly accurate as the frustrated teen who just wants to dance with her girlfriend.  She holds her ground with Corden, Kidman, and even the villainous PTA president played by Washington.

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some suggestive/sexual references, and language, The Prom is a rollicking good story about lesbian rights, growth, tolerance, understanding, and love with some parent shaming to boot.  It’s very showy but hey, so is Broadway!

Grade:  B