I’ll admit, I’ll take a guilty pleasure in enjoying a fun musical movie: the sparkle, the toe-tapping, the OTT-ness of it all. I’m thinking Mamma Mia! or Pitch Perfect. Heck, from the Christmas TV listings I’m most looking forward to Singin’ in the Rain! Yup, you can’t beat a good musical.
And you saw this ‘joke’ coming: The Prom was not, alas, a good musical. Or a good film. Or a good use of my Sunday afternoon.
Oh, the elements are there: the starry cast, including Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and please-stop-giving-him-work James Cordon, all hamming it up high. Streep at least looks like she’s having some fun; Kidman looks like the botox is getting in the way again. And please, please stop casting James Cordon!! Urgh.
Most importantly for a musical, we have a whole slew of new music. Which is… urm… fine? I mean, it didn’t make my ears bleed, but I couldn’t hum you a single bar of any of it. Slight flaw, there. Bigger flaw in the lyrics, which more often that not were pretty crappy. Sorry, no other phrasing comes to mind.
And the story. A bunch of narcissistic Broadway ‘stars’ think the way to beat the latest bad reviews is to take up some cause, tout themselves as activists and garner praise. So off they head to Indiana where a big scandal has just broken out: a high school has decided to cancel prom entirely rather than allow the only (haha) lesbian in the village – I mean school – take a same-sex partner to the dance.
I’m sure there are places in small town America where that might still be a big deal, but quite frankly it was hard to get behind the story when my reaction was so firmly “Well, duh, of course she can do that”. What does the movie set in her way? Some bitchy classmates and one highly strung PTA member? Despite the ranting and the tears, never once did I think this was actually going to be a permanent issue the way Footloose (cough cough) convinced me the teens would never ever be allowed to dance except alone in barns. Urm, sorry, sidetracked. What can I say, the whole movie just had me wishing I was watching Footloose, or Grease, or anything else it borrowed liberally from.
Or, of course, it could just be that the cast and script failed to convince me on any level. Tonally it’s a mess, sometimes highly spoofy, other times too earnest for its own good, usually plodding along in a mess in the middle. The main teen (Jo Ellen Pellman) was pretty good but she seemed incapable of wiping a gassy-looking panic-grin off her face even in the serious moments, and it was almost as distracting as her uncanny resemblance to Elizabeth Moss. It could have been The Handmaid’s Tale, drugged up dream episode.
Ah, it wasn’t awful. It tried hard to be that feel-good Sunday afternoon thing you needed on the day after Christmas was cancelled and you were reminded that the country is going to hell in a handcart. But it pretty much failed on every level for me, reaching the heady heights of ‘meh’ on occasion, and taking, far, far too long to get there. Seriously, should have been about 40 minutes shorter, minimum. But I recommend you save yourself the whole 2+ hours and go watch just about anything else instead.
Released: 11th December 2020 (Netflix)
Viewed: 20th December 2020
Running time: 130 minutes
My rating: 3/10