Complete A-Z list

Prom, The


Stars: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Jo Ellen Pellman, Keegan-Michael Key, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington, Ariana DeBose, Mary Kay Place, Tracey Ullman

Director: Ryan Murphy

Corden, Streep and Ullman are making a habit of making splashy musicals with totally unmemorable songs. After Into the Woods, here comes another. And it's painfully PC.

The basic set-up takes some believing. Gay 17-year-old Emma (Pellman) wants to take her girlfriend Alyssa (De Bose) to the high school prom as her partner, but the bigoted wrath of God, in the form of deputy principal Greene - coincidentally Alyssa's mother (Washington) - descends, and the prom is cancelled. Are there really intelligent people so unenlightened in the mid-West? - can't think Indiana can be too pleased about this.

Meanwhile, in faraway New York, self-serving performers Dee Dee (Streep) and Barry (Corden) are devastated when their new musical is closed after one night. Resolving to become activists to get themselves back on the spotlight, they're joined by rejected song-and-dancers Angie (Kidman) and Trent (Rannells), who spot an online piece about Emma's plight, and set off for Indiana to put things right, and themselves in the news.

Quite apart from the songs, most of which run like Disney rejects, the film really does lay on its message (and sentiment) a bit thick. Glutinous, perhaps, is the best word. All of us at Pictures That Talk would be aghast at such pointless prejudice, but this treatment really is a bit too much. And the movie runs about 20 minutes too long.

But here's the thing. The choreography is whip-smart, and the singing well up to Broadway standards, Streep and Pellman especially. And who knew Key could sing (his is also the most balanced performance)? Also, when it's not drowning us in PC treacle, the script does have some very funny lines. Toned down more than a touch, this could have had the best of all worlds, but even so it still provides, often enough, a whirlwind of fun.

DeBose, who looks too old for her role (she's 30) is, incidentally, less than 14 years younger than Washington, who plays her mother!

David Quinlan

USA 2020. UK Distributor: Netflix. Colour by Company 3 (print by Technicolor).
131 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 06 Jan 2021