Wednesday, December 30, 2020

People Suck in Indiana

Adapted from the stage musical, The Prom sends a group of Broadway performers (Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Andrew Rannells) to Indiana looking for a cause to turn around public opinion about their narcissistic nature. What they find is a teenage high school student (Jo Ellen Pellman) denied the right to take her girlfriend (Ariana DeBose) to the prom.

Directed by Ryan Murphy, The Prom is a bawdy life-affirming story populated by mostly paper-thin characters walking through the plot to set-up the next song and dance number. While Corden has received the most criticism for a stereotypical performance, other than the two girls in love, none of the characters have any more depth than a damp sponge. Pellman turns out to be one of the best casting choices as the beautiful young woman who wants nothing more than to be herself, and DeBose manages to steal a moment with her performance of "Alyssa Greene."

Given we are far, far removed from the golden age of Hollywood musicals, one of the tradeoffs studios make is a choice between choosing actors who can sing and singers who can act. In Streep, they have someone who can do both, although she's more caricature than flesh-and-blood here. Kidman offers the best performance of the adult roles as the longtime chorus girl who has yet to earn her big break, but she's also over-her-head when asked to carry her character's one big musical number. The cast is rounded out by Keegan-Michael Key as the school's principal and Kerry Washington as the less-enlightened head of the PTA. There are other actors who fill out the unsympathetic high school class, who are oddly into big song and dance numbers long before the Broadway stars show up (maybe making it easier for their hearts and minds to be changed over the course of the story).

More fast food than gourmet meal, The Prom knows exactly what it is and doesn't attempt to be anything more. Not as well cast nor as sly as Hairspray, The Prom still delivers its share of over-the-top shenanigans, fun moments, and a few strong musical numbers (one of my favorites provided the title of this review). The film plays up its themes of sexual identity and acceptance while letting the zany antics of the Broadway stars go wild on the shocked community. It's also shamelessly schmaltzy, cheesy, and more than a tad naïve about the ease of changing the hearts and minds of an entire bigoted community.

No comments: