The year was 1997. What should have been an unforgettable night ended up being an unmitigated disaster. Oh yeah, my prom was unforgettable alright, but it was for all the wrong reasons. My dress was an amateur creation, a homemade mess that bore no resemblance to the picture I’d given my aunt to use as an example of what I wanted. My date was the first available guy I could find, some kid who worked at a shoe store at the mall. He was an underclassman, but it was the best I could do. The night ended in tears. Like I said, it was unforgettable. I understand that the prom is a big deal, so I was curious to see the Disney movie titled, quite simply: Prom.
The movie opens with a quick glimpse into the lives of several students at anIllinoishigh school. The senior class is all abuzz with excitement. High school seniors tend to mentally “check out” around spring break, as prom and graduation approach, and after those college acceptance letters start rolling in. The movie is told primarily through the eyes of Nova, a high-achieving “most likely to succeed” type of kid who gets good grades and is very involved in school activities. Nova is consumed with the prom. As chair of the prom committee she has been carefully crafting decorations for a magical “Starry Night” to send the senior class off with a bang. Nova doesn’t have a date, but she hopes thatBrandon, also on the prom committee, will eventually ask her. When he offhandedly suggests that they carpool together, she half-heartedly accepts. All around the school, boys are coming up with creative and romantic ways to ask that special someone to the prom. Here is where fantasy comes into play, because high school boys are simply not that sensitive, creative or romantic. You would think they were extending marriage proposals with all the effort they were expending. When resident jockTylerasks his cheerleader girlfriend to the big dance, he does it in the shed where the newly completed prom decorations are housed. He set up a picnic with candles, but when he forgets to blow one of them out before they leave, all of the decorations go up in flames. Nova is devastated, and the prom is in jeopardy. The principal decides to force the school’s rebel without a cause to give Nova a hand, or else he won’t graduate. Said rebel is named Jesse, and he was reprimanded earlier for cutting class. Jesse hates the idea of prom, and only views it as a stupid reason for vapid kids to stand around in the gym listening to a lame DJ while drinking punch.
It turns out that Jesse has a sensitive side, and the reason he cuts class is so that he can pick his little brother up from school while their mother works overtime at her job. Despite his rough exterior, he is actually kind – and he begins to see the prom through Nova’s eyes. Although he thinks it’s silly, he appreciates the dedication she puts into making it special and even begins to buy into the idea himself. Movies about high school tend to depict its characters in clearly-defined, rigid stereotypes. This is somewhat realistic, if you think about it. High schoolers tend to adhere to the social pecking order. To that end, Prom is no exception. There is The Overachiever, The Jock, Ms. Popularity, The Bad Boy, and finally: The Shy Kid. The shy kid here is Lucas, and underclassman who can’t work up the nerve to approach Simone, his crush. Unbeknownst to Lucas, Simone has a past withTyler, whose own prom date situation is in jeopardy. Will he ever work up the nerve to ask her out? I’m sure you’re waiting for that answer with baited breath (insert winky face here).
All jokes aside, Prom was a sweet little movie. I definitely was not part of Disney’s target audience, but I’ll admit that it was not the unwatchable teeny bopper vehicle that I anticipated. It is definitely not in the same league of classic 1980s high school movies like Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club, but it adequately captured the jittery unfamiliarity all teens experience as they navigate their way to young adulthood. Take the ‘tween in your life to check it out – you won’t be disappointed.
This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.