Prom -- to some the word conjures up flashbacks of terrifying moments of complete and utter humiliation, while others are nostalgic for that one magical night when, regardless of social hierarchy, a simple dance brings everyone together. Directed by Joe Nussbaum from a script by first-timer Katie Wech (who may have been channeling John Hughes), Prom is chock-full of high-school movie clichés and recycled archetypes: the goody two-shoes, the motorcycle-riding rebel, the goofy stoner, the couple facing the end of their relationship as they go to separate colleges, and various other teens who suffer missed opportunities and miscommunications but come out better for it in the end.
The story centers on members of the Brookside High School senior class as they get ready for prom. Nova (Aimee Teegarden), an honors student who has kept a small crew on task the entire year preparing for the "Starry Night"-themed dance, is the most invested in making the night perfect. But along the way, the prom committee is dealt a severe blow when the decorations for their dance go up in flames. With AP exams keeping the motley crew distracted, it's up to Nova to resurrect the whole extravaganza by her lonesome -- that is, until she gets some unexpected help from resident bad boy Jesse (Thomas McDonell).
Essentially, this feels like a Disney Channel made-for-TV movie, complete with a formulaic plot and predictable ending. There are other subplots involving a star athlete who, it turns out, has been cheating on his girlfriend and a shy girl working up the nerve to ask a popular boy to the dance, but no one pops out as a major star quite like the actors in the High School Musical series did. There are a few funny moments sprinkled throughout Wech's script, along with several awkward moments that certainly pay off, but Prom is exactly what the haters in the cast say it is -- a lot of buildup for something that isn't remotely as "special" as those obsessed with it want it be.
Still, despite the fact that it's all fluff and no edge -- even this Disney version of high school is just a wee bit too sugar-coated -- Prom is strangely charming. The film will certainly resonate with its target audience -- tween girls who still have romantic visions of what it means to be in high school and go to prom -- and anyone else who's nostalgic for the days when things seemed a whole lot simpler.