Writer/director John Hughes -- may he rest in peace -- was a master of the teen genre. From "The Breakfast Club" (1985) to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986), Hughes lent his projects unparalleled humor and heart.
Viewers remember Ferris' wild-child antics, but it was his friend Cameron's visceral reaction to a materialistic and uncaring dad that hit an emotional chord. Similarly, in "Breakfast Club," jock Andrew Clark's breakdown when describing his father's relentless pressure is especially effective given the film's overall witty and entertaining tone. Hughes' films were at once deep and light-hearted, and filmmakers have long tried to replicate (or rip off) the winning formula.
A case in point is Disney's latest teen-pleaser, "Prom." The film -- which often seems better suited for television -- borrows liberally from the Hughes library, including a chase-through-the-school scene that may as well have been plucked directly from "Breakfast Club." The plot and characters are as one-dimensional as cardboard-cutout prom decorations, and with the exception of a few standouts, the acting is on par with a high school play.
Class president Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden of TV's "Friday Night Lights") is in charge of the school's climactic celebration -- the prom. Things go from sweet to stressful for Nova (not sure why her parents named her after a Chevy from the '60s, but I digress) when the storage room full of completed prom decorations catches fire. The school's principal forces motorcycle-driving rebel Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell) to help Nova redecorate for the upcoming dance. Can anyone else see where this is going?
A handful of other characters wrestle with their own issues as prom approaches, though Nova and Jesse are the focal point. Star athlete Tyler (DeVaughn Nixon) is on the outs with his longtime girlfriend after cheating with sophomore Simone (Danielle Campbell), who has her sights set on baby-faced charmer Lucas (Nolan Sotillo). Mei (Yin Chang) doesn't have the heart to tell her Michigan-bound boyfriend that she'll be going to school in New York, and perennial shy guy Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) whiffs with every prom-date request.
Despite the fact that most of the actors (with the exception of Sotillo) look to be in their 20s, "Prom" should satisfy the 13- to 17-year-old female audience it's geared toward with plenty of high school cliches and a superficial plot. The lack of laughs and a heap of cheesy dialogue contributes to the shrug-inducing reaction those of us outside of the target audience will experience. McDonell stands out in his stereotypical role (it doesn't hurt that he looks a bit like a young Johnny Depp) and Teegarden performs admirably, but the majority of the casting seems generic and uninspired.
Perhaps the biggest problem with "Prom" is that there is nothing special about it. Everything feels familiar and rehashed, like eating leftovers that have lingered in the fridge and been picked at for days. There are fleeting moments that impress, such as the bond between Jesse and his waitress mother, but nothing near what Hughes was able to do consistently.
Prom might be a night to remember for high-schoolers, but "Prom" is a movie to forget for filmgoers.