Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical keeps the joyous vibrancy that came from the original and simply moves it to a different platform, despite one slight downfall.
When they announced a film adaptation of The Prom, I was worried. It’s a story and a musical that works so well on the Broadway stage because it’s quintessential Broadway. It has its ups and down, it has that slight cheese factor, and its (spoiler) happy ending where everything works out. These are the exact things that don’t always translate into a good movie. I, thankfully, was pleasantly surprised.
The film is predictable. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t a pretty standard girl gets bullied for being gay in a small town, people help, the town sees the error of its ways surprisingly quickly, and it all works out in the end. It is exactly what you’d expect. However, it does it with such heart and it genuinely succeeds in being a delightful – albeit fluffy – watch.
The cast is the very definition of star-studded, and I must say that I think having such a strong cast elevated what could’ve been a very average plot and film. (I personally think the same thing worked for the Broadway musical, but that’s a different article for a different day…)
Newbie Jo Ellen Pellman nails the loveable and emotional crux of the show, Emma, with ease. She provides us with some lovely vocals and some genuinely great acting moments. Nicole Kidman, while probably not having as much to work with as the rest of the cast, sparkles. She’s funny, she’s loveable, and seeing her in a movie musical just made me want to watch Moulin Rouge again.
Kerry Washington was obviously amazing. She’s an incredible actress and she pulled off the “bad guy” role easily. Keegan-Michael Key really surprised me. He clearly isn’t the best singer of the bunch, not to say he was bad in any way. But his acting was so delightful to watch that it made his vocals seem very average. It was also nice to see the head teacher being the supportive one for once.
Now onto the Broadway representation in the cast. Broadway vet Andrew Rannells was great, of course. When is he not? I never realised I needed a dance break between him and some newly accepting Christian teens in a mall during a song about the hypocrisy in using the Bible to hate gay people until I saw it. The other Broadway star in the cast is Ariana DeBose – playing Emma’s love interest Alyssa. She was simply brilliant in this film. She played her character so well and I cannot wait to see her meteoric rise to stardom. She was in Hamilton. She is going to be in the West Side Story remake. It’s her time.
Meryl Streep is, of course, stunning in her role of Dee Dee Allen. You visibly see Streep having the time of her life playing the hilarious, narcissistic Broadway star that you can’t help but love even though someone that self-absorbed would be a nightmare to know in reality. Despite being such a fun character, Dee Dee gives Meryl some real acting moments to shine. There’s a scene where Dee Dee and Corden’s Barry are watching My Best Friend’s Wedding, and without giving much away, it’s one of the best scenes in the film.
Now James Corden. Remember that slight downfall I mentioned? Here it is. I’m not a fan of James Corden in movie musicals. I think there are a lot of actors who fit into the same casting bracket that would do a much better job than Corden. And… I was willing to give him a slight chance in The Prom, and I wasn’t completely let down. Corden genuinely had some good moments in this film, that gave me a glimpse of why he was cast.
I previously mentioned the My Best Friend’s Wedding scene, and a scene with Tracey Ullman that made me ugly sob. He fared better in the emotional scenes, and I think it’s because he stops doing the one big problem I had with him in this film. And no, it wasn’t his singing.
It was his accent and acting choices…
It wasn’t the bad American accent. It was the overly camp, and slightly lisped American accent that screamed I’m a straight man trying to play the sassy gay character that really bugged me. His emotional scenes worked better because he wasn’t playing into that overly “yaaass queen” gay stereotype.
When he said the words “Sing it, Eleanor” during Streep’s number “It’s Not About Me”, I audibly groaned. Now, I know that it’s the way the character is written and therefore it’s not Corden’s fault. But that doesn’t stop the fact that it just feels wrong coming from Corden.
As the film goes on, he does improve, I will give him that. (Though, I don’t know if that’s because the accent became less jarring the more, I heard it, as opposed to him actually getting better.)
Despite this, I do highly recommend watching The Prom over the holidays if you’re looking for some light-hearted viewing to get away from the stress of work and the world because it is escapism at its finest. I’m not saying the film’s going to be winning any awards, but it’s far from being a waste of two hours of your life.
It’s a solid 3.5 out of 5.
By Robbie Nichols
Feature image: Netflix