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The Prom movie review: A headache-inducing musical

The Prom movie review: You can be pardoned for expecting more than this headache-inducing, blinge-blinding, tone-deaf musical where all that glitter adds that up to so little zazz (yes, not jazz)

Rating: 1.5 out of 5
Written by Shalini Langer | Updated: December 12, 2020 8:33:10 am
the prom reviewRyan Murphy's The Prom is streaming on Netflix. (Photo: Netflix)

The Prom movie cast: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Kerry Washington, Jo Ellen Pellman, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana DeBose
The Prom movie director: Ryan Murphy
The Prom movie rating: One and a half stars

Two American institutions (the prom, Meryl Streep) meet two American indulgences (Ryan Murphy, James Corden) here. So you can be pardoned for expecting more than this headache-inducing, blinge-blinding, tone-deaf musical where all that glitter adds that up to so little zazz (yes, not jazz).

Once upon a time (after time), there is a school in Indiana — the state gets as bad a rep as it can survive — where all the high schoolers’ hopes and dreams rest on attending a prom. One of them, Emma (Pellman), has a slightly different dream: she wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. The principal, Hawkins (Key), as gay as straight gets, is more than willing, in the general sense of giving every student her right. The PTA head, Mrs Greene (a stentorian, and hence less teary-eyed Washington), can’t be more clear about her stand: she uses her position to have the prom cancelled rather than have the “American way of life” challenged.

This is where some major and minor Broadway stars, led by Dee Dee Smith (Streep), and including Barry (Corden), enter the scene, seeing in Emma a cause celebre worth some good PR.

Murphy and writers Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin are unclear about where they want to go from here. Smith’s entourage, that includes an utterly-utterly wasted Kidman, starts out seeming like a parody on celebrity culture, its narcissism and its shallowness. But, sure enough, like most glossy Murphy productions, the film is ultimately about showbiz offering the world “the much-needed escape it needs from the harsh realities of life”.

Emma might not need their help — in the film’s only break from stereotype. The teenager, in fact, appears to be doing very well on her own. While rejected by own parents and dressed in unusual threads, she seems to have an overall surprisingly sunny disposition for an American teen. However, help, that pours out in a medley of forgettable songs, is what Emma will get.

And not one, not two, but three proms.

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