Genre: Musical Comedy
Running Time: 132 mins.
Where Can You See It?: Netflix
Premise: When a small Indiana town shuts down the high school prom because one of its students wants to take her girlfriend, a troupe of washed-up Broadway actors descends upon the town in the hopes of boosting their PR by championing inclusivity.
Behind-the-Scenes: Based on the Broadway musical, which premiered in October 2018 and ran for over 300 performances. Musical book writers Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin also wrote the script. Part of Ryan Murphy’s production deal with Netflix. Murphy also directed – though highly prolific on the television front, this is only his third feature directing credit – and first musical (not counting episodes of Glee).
The Good: Murphy seems to have finally found his calling as a director. He seems made for the musical genre, and appears especially jazzed by the ability to infuse this production with high camp, bright colors, a star-studded cast, and an irrepressible sense of joy in every corner of the frame. The music by Beguelin, Martin & Matthew Sklar is catchy Broadway pop done right – with several stand-out tunes. Newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman sings beautifully and definitely holds her own against heavyweights like Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, who are both great (Streep, despite being seemingly contractually obligated to appear in every musical film, has never sung better than she does here). The standout is Andrew Rannells, as a Julliard-trained actor who brings the house (or mall) down with the jubilant “Love Thy Neighbor.” The Prom makes for good liberal family viewing, full of great messages for kids to hear.
The Bad: Most of the early backlash against the movie seems to center around the casting of James Corden, as the flamboyant Broadway actor, Barry. Is he miscast? Probably. Does he do a good job despite his miscasting? I think so. Though someone mentioned that this role should have been played by Titus Burgess and now I can’t shake that image from my head, wishing I could have seen THAT version. The movie is too long and the script could have trimmed down some of the non-singing character-based scenes (and been less cheesy with its “one song garners 8 million YouTube views” plot device).
Should You See It?: Yes! The Prom is a blast of candy-colored, toe-tapping fun. Ranks up there with Eurovision as one of the more uncomplicated, pure joy movie watching experiences of this weird pandemic year.
Star Rating: **** out of 5 stars
Better Than: Mank, Jingle Jangle
Worse Than: Hamilton, Eurovision
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