Prom (US - BD)
Gabe is pretty sure Disney didn't make this particular film with him in mind...
Disney’s Prom follows the lives of several average students attending an average high school in averageville USA as they prepare for the senior prom, and deal with the oncoming changes that will meet them at graduation. Nova (Aimee Teegarden) is the class president and valedictorian. She heads the committee to plan the prom, and hopes that her aloof friend Brandon (Jonathan Keltz) will ask her to attend with him. Tyler (De'Vaughn Nixon), the cool kid, and head of the football team, is confronted by his girlfriend, Jordan (Kylie Bunbury), who suspects he’s been cheating. To alleviate her concerns Tyler invites her to the shed that houses the prom decorations for a candle light dinner. They leave without putting out the candles, and all of Nova’s hard work burns to the ground. Meanwhile, bad boy Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell) is in trouble thanks to vague misbehavior and playing hooky, and is sentenced to assisting Nova get her prom decorations back in order.
I really wish I had the energy to get worked up over Disney’s ever proliferating tween-appealing high school based output like some people do, but it simply doesn’t bother me. It’s an easy and cheap way for the studio to generate money, and given the money they waste on ridiculously expensive Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, I can’t blame them for wanting to avoid falling into the red like just about every other major studio running these days. And here’s the hard truth, people, despite their slightly more kid friendly attitude, movies like High School Musical are going to fill the same place of nostalgia for the next adult generation that Sixteen Candles and Ten Things I Hate About You filled for the last two new adult generations. Is Prom as objectively good as The Breakfast Club? Absolutely not, but it really doesn’t matter. Prom takes place in that ridiculous movie-only universe where it’s impossible to tell the popular kids and the unpopular kids apart because everyone is as pretty as an acne commercial. We have to assume the colour of their expensive looking clothing signifies which click they fall into, and pretend we don’t notice the token black kids (both of them). It also takes place in a universe I don’t relate to in the slightest as an adult that wasn’t interested in his own prom over a decade ago.
Prom takes no chances, which should surprise no one, and this is the real reason to agree with the anti-Disney crowd and dismiss it. It’s harmless, feel good entertainment that tweens can hope to relate to in a couple of years, even if they have little hope of filling the pretty girl tropes. No one will be frightened by the possibility of unwanted sexual advances (there is no date rape in the Disney universe), no one even attempts to ingest any illicit materials, and the most daring dark thing that happens in the entire film is a break-in to a rival school to investigate their prom decorations (that’s ‘investigate’, not ‘sabotage’). No gays either, even though there’s an obvious candidate in the good girl’s platonic friend. The young actors are fine, and their dialogue is only occasionally maddeningly trite (every once and a while I have to admit I was charmed by an interaction), but I found no excuse to care about any of them, or any of their unimportant in the real world ‘problems’. Of course there is one character that is sure to explain how unimportant the problems are, but he exists to be swayed in favour of the utter beauty that is prom, which is the filmmaker’s way of telling people like me to shut the hell up, and stop ruining the film for the kids. The Altmanesque interwoven ensemble element works in the film’s favour because any time a character’s plight starts to grate too harshly we cut to a different grating plight that hasn’t friction-burned our patience too recently.
The wikipedia tells me that Prom was ‘the first major production shot with Arriflex's Alexa HD cameras to be released in theatres’. My eyes tell me that the Alexa system is a whole lot like the Red One system. The overall image here is clean, generally soft, and warm. It’s also surprisingly dark and desaturated based on its bright advertising material. There are plenty of fine details and textures, but this being a film about kids with tiny pores, nothing is ever shot to exploit imperfections. Wide angle lenses and deep focus are also not common elements of Nussbaum and cinematographer Byron Shah’s design, but important elements are still perfectly separated, and gradations are clean and soft without any major digital noise. The colour scheme is basically a mix of gold and baby blue. The gold infiltrates every skin tone and white element, while the blue offers a nice balance in most frames. Pink highlights and natural greens are the only elements that aren’t affected by either dominant hue. The soft, but harsh lighting schemes create a solid and sharp contrast representation, though the extreme purity of the blacks does bleed out a tiny bit on some of the darker shots. The camera’s high definition capabilities ensure that there’s generally zero grain too.
Prom comes fitted with the usual DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which gets things done without stepping out of the center channel very often. The dialogue being centered is a given, but the rest of the busy work also sits smack dab in the middle. There’s a hint of ambience during the outdoor and busy hallway scenes, but these are minimal at best. The driving, yet soft pop music gives the stereo and surround channels their best workout. The rears act mostly as an echo chamber, but the stereo presence is quite wide, and vocals are sharply separated into center. The climatic prom sequence features generally louder music, and with it generally more effective rear channel support. Other minor aural aggressions include a brief fire, and the dark and cool kid’s motorcycle (which occasionally drives from the front channels to the back).
The extras begin with ‘Last Chance Lloyd’ (9:10, HD), which is basically a series of in movie scenes and deleted scenes featuring born loser Lloyd and his little stepsister attempting to get him a prom date. It’s better than the movie proper. ‘Putting on Prom’ (6:00, HD) is a made for television featurette/EPK that features interviews with director Joe Nussbaum, writer Katie Wech, producer Ted Griffin, and most of the young actors. Subject matter is generally fluffy and commercial like. This disc also features a blooper reel (2:30, HD), four deleted scenes with introductions from the director and producer (7:40, HD), seven music videos and trailers.
As a fan of Breaking Bad I did find Prom somewhat interesting because Dean Norris finds a nemesis in his daughter’s would be boyfriend, whose name is Jesse, but otherwise I recognize this wasn’t a film made for me. It’s well enough made, safe, and features your daily recommended value of morals and general feelgoodary, leaving me with no reason to step too hardly upon its bigger problems, which are many and varied. Parents can allow their tweens to obsess over it in confidence, but probably won’t have much interest in watching it with them. The digital HD photography looks great in 1080p, but the DTS-HD soundtrack is rather dull, and the extras quite brief (though they do include an entertaining short film).
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer. Thanks to Troy at Andersonvision.com for the screen-caps.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 30th August 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DVS 2.0 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish and French
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Last Chance Lloyd Short Film, Bloopers, Deleted Scenes, Putting On Prom, Music Videos, Trailer, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Joe Nussbaum
Cast: Aimee Teegarden, Danielle Campbell
Length: 104 minutes