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Prom: Blu-ray + DVD Review

Prom (2011) movie poster Prom

Theatrical Release: April 29, 2011 / Running Time: 104 Minutes / Rating: PG / Songs

Director: Joe Nussbaum / Writer: Katie Wech

Cast: Aimee Teegarden (Nova Prescott), Thomas McDonell (Jesse Richter), De'Vaughn Nixon (Tyler Barso), Danielle Campbell (Simone Daniels), Yin Chang (Mei Kwan), Jared Kusnitz (Justin Wexler), Nolan Sotillo (Lucas Arnaz), Cameron Monaghan (Corey Doyle), Kylie Bunbury (Jordan Lundley), Joe Adler (Rolo), Janelle Ortiz (Ali Gomez), Jonathan Keltz (Brandon Roberts), Nicholas Braun (Lloyd Taylor), Raini Rodriguez (Tess Torres), Christine Elise McCarthy (Sandra Richter), Robbie Tucker (Charlie Richter), Dean Norris (Frank Prescott), Faith Ford (Kitty Prescott), Amy Pietz (Corey's Mom), Jere Burns (Principal Dunnan), Aimee-Lynn Chadwick (Rachel), Allie Trimm (Betsy), Madison Riley (Kristen), Rocco Nugent (Anton), Ivy Malone (Alice), Blair Fowler (Leah), Carlease Burke (Rhoda Wainwright)

Buy Prom from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD DVD Instant Video

If you didn't already know that Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich Ross was promoted from Disney Channel presidency, then his first greenlight in power might have tipped you off. Prom, a kid-oriented comedy about teenage romance, looked cut from the mold of the cable channel,
a channel Ross helped strengthen with the massive multimedia empires of "Hannah Montana" and High School Musical. While both of those franchises managed to segue into hit theatrical releases, they had two years to develop young audience goodwill beforehand. Prom was an original movie, based on nothing but the formal dance so many students experience near the end of high school.

You would think by assuming one of the most powerful positions at one of the largest media corporations in the world, Ross understood that making films for moviegoers was different from making movies for basic cable. But, this was a lesson taught by the general public, when Prom opened in fifth place with a measly $4.7 million opening weekend gross. Even using a modest average admission price from discounted children's tickets, fewer than one million people paid to see the film in its first three days. By comparison, two weeks earlier, 5.7 million people watched the Friday night premiere of Disney Channel's superior Lemonade Mouth.

Good girl class president Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden) and class-cutting bad boy Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell) bond over their rushed joint prom preparations.

As the all-encompassing title might lead you to expect, Prom focuses on an ensemble of high schoolers on the verge of experiencing the rite of passage. This could be any public high school in America, but it happens to be Brookside High in Michigan, where the student body is ethnically diverse and almost uniformly good-looking.

Leading the prom planning committee is class president Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden, "Friday Night Lights"), a Georgetown-bound good girl, whose relationship with longtime friend Brandon (Jonathan Keltz) is ambiguous and unromantic. That makes her an obvious match for Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell), your standard leather-wearing, motorcycle-driving bad boy. Expediting that pairing, Principal Dunnan (a brief and vanishing Jere Burns) appoints Jesse to help Nova speed through back-up plans after the entire shed of Starry Night-themed decorations goes up in smoke. Prom itself occupies a mere twenty minutes of runtime, leaving the other eighty to deal with preparations and anticipation.

The A-story is supplemented by various threads. Perhaps most deserving of secondary designation is the one that involves a pair of geeky rock history buff underclassmen. Their symbiotic friendship suffers some when Lucas (Nolan Sotillo) starts spending time with sophomore Simone (Danielle Campbell, much improved since StarStruck). Their not quite romance overlaps with one of the focal senior couples (DeVaughn Nixon and Kylie Bunbury), whose long relationship is less steady than it seems. Other points of interest include Lloyd (Nicholas Braun), a shy guy who can't find a girl to go with him; Rolo (Joe Adler), a messy weirdo whose talk of his Greek-Canadian girlfriend raises doubts; and a couple (Yin Chang, Jared Kusnitz) whose secretly divergent college plans are weighing down on them.

Prom is ridiculously predictable. Your initial expectation for every one of these plotlines is right, even if doubt is cast on a couple along the way. Forced exposition abounds in the establishing of characters and relationships, an offense slightly forgivable in light of the cast size. The movie is filled head to toe with mostly new pop tunes (and a couple of covers for adult recognition), in the name of shamelessly assembling a popular soundtrack album.

Elaborate prom invitations like this one dominate the early portions of Disney's "Prom." Underclassmen Lucas (Nolan Sotillo) and Simone (Danielle Campbell) bond over music and guitars, but a prom invitation comes between them.

Rated PG, the movie is only a tad edgier than Disney Channel fare, a fact it reinforces throughout with the use of handheld cameras. There is never a chance that we'll hear language resembling real teen speak or address serious issues like stressful pressure or sex.
In this world, a troubled kid is one who cuts class to pick up his younger brother. Present-day teens may have a hard time relating to this clean-cut take on their lives, but the "Disney" name remains unsullied. In tone and content, this is much closer to High School Musical than to Grease or John Hughes.

Though Prom seems to try not to date itself and its cultural references run from broad to fictitious, it inevitably will become something of a 2011 time capsule. The movie could have embraced that and aimed for the kind of generational icon status that past teen movies like The Breakfast Club, Clueless, and Mean Girls have earned, but its desires to offend no one and appeal to all put a damper on its creativity and even more so its charm.

For all its faults, genericism, and safe playing, Prom disappoints far less in viewing than it does in theory. The problem is it doesn't have a clear audience to play to. The slight maturity it offers over Disney Channel programming won't be appreciated by young viewers and those who are any older are right to think they've probably outgrown this kind of thing. The theatrical bombing makes sense in retrospect (and with a meager $8 M production budget not far from DCOM range, the losses aren't tremendous). The critical dismissals are understandable, because the shortcomings are glaring to anyone who watches movies for a living. To those failings, we can add a predictably pitiful IMDb average user rating and now low sales rankings, both in line with the other issues.

From critically drubbed sequels falling short of financial goals set by their predecessors to box office duds whose earnings require 25 years of inflation reversal to even start to approach respectability, this has not been a good year for Disney. At least, The Muppets looks promising, their distribution deal with DreamWorks has paid off handsomely on The Help, that same deal gives the studio its best shot in nearly fifty years at a Best Picture Oscar winner in Steven Spielberg's much-anticipated War Horse, and the forthcoming age of in-house distribution of Marvel Studios films seems to be the most surefire arrangement in the entire industry. None of this is any consolation to Prom, but the chairman who championed it has reason to think his term will get better.

Meanwhile, Prom is now available to own in a welterweight single-disc DVD and, this review's subject, a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.

Prom Blu-ray + DVD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish, French
DVD Closed Captioned; Non-Music Video Extras Subtitled and Captioned
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (1 BD-50 & 1 DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Side-Snapped Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Prom may well be one of the year's least cinematic films, but nonetheless it looks amazing in the Blu-ray's flawless 1.78:1 presentation. Everything here is perfect: excellent detail, vibrant colors, and an expectedly immaculate element. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack also pleases, gaining most notice for its almost non-stop stream of poppy pop but also presenting dialogue with the utmost clarity and occasionally supplying a nice directional effect.

Like most studios, Disney hasn't tried to sink DVD with reduced feature presentation quality (only supplement suppression - more on that soon). In sampling the DVD included here, which is identical to the one sold on its own, I found it delivered perfectly satisfactory 16:9-enhanced picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Since Prom's fanbase seems to have minimal overlap with A/V buffs, I imagine that few will see any reason to want or need clearer picture or sound than this standard DVD offers.

"Last Chance Lloyd" shows us more failed attempts by shy senior Lloyd Taylor (Nicholas Braun) to land a prom date. Five young cast members pose coolly for a picture in "Putting on 'Prom.'"

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The ugly trend of suppressing most bonus features from DVD continues and multiplies on Prom, a title sure to do the vast majority of its business on DVD.
Those satisfied with standard definition miss out on all of the Blu-ray extras except for two short things.

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with Last Chance Lloyd (10:19), an original short film seemingly composed largely from footage shot for the film (most of it deleted and some of it used). Tall, shy senior Lloyd Taylor (Nicholas Braun) proves further unlucky in love as he tries other ways to land a prom date and fails.

Making-of featurette "Putting on Prom" (5:59) explains the film's intentions: to depict "an authentic version of high school life" without singing, dancing, or sports. As far as authenticity goes, I don't think anyone's high school life would be rated PG. Still, the comments gathered here regarding casting, screenwriter Katie Wech's ideas, and the young cast's experiences making the film are welcome.

Danielle Campbell and De'Vaughn Nixon crack up in the blooper reel's look at the shooting of their car scene. Principal Dunnan (Jere Burns) and Rhoda (Carlease Burke) appear at the prom in this short deleted bit.

Next, we get bloopers (2:32), a standard but amusing reel of actor goofs and pre-take antics.

Deleted scenes number four and run 7 minutes and 44 seconds including the explanatory introductions by director Joe Nussbaum (a teen comedy veteran) and producer Justin Springer. These include a far from scandalous closet encounter between Tyler and Simone, Jesse getting teased while trying on tuxes, a slight extension to the school break-in, and some prom odds and ends (including a Jere Burns sighting!).

Allstar Weekend singer Zach Porter leads a vivacious walk through a high school hallway in the band's "Not Your Birthday" music video. Dreamy leading man Thomas McDonell reveals music as his other passion in Moon's "Time Stand" music video.

The BD's extras conclude with a whopping seven music videos, running 24 minutes and 16 seconds with the provided "Play All" feature. Naturally, nearly all of these rely heavily on silent movie clips, which is good for promoting Prom (theoretically) but limits the amount of creativity displayed.

Allstar Weekend's catchy "Not Your Birthday" (3:30) has the band performing at a school dance and in a hallway. A little out of place in this mix, Neon Trees performs "Your Surrender" (3:55) on a school football field and at a prom different from the movie's one but featuring the cast.

The next three videos feature cast members as performers. Thomas McDonell, bad boy Jesse Richter in the movie, is the lead singer of Moon whose "Time Stand" (3:12) music video forgoes film clips in favor of split-screen, multi-angle looks at the band in action. Then, Nolan Sotillo, Prom's shy sophomore Lucas, uncreatively performs "We Could Be Anything" (3:59) simply in a recording studio. He returns to do the same thing in "Juntos Lo Haremos Bien" (3:57), the Spanish version of the song, only with the foreign lyrics in hand.

Nolan Sotillo consults the lyrics to the Spanish version of his end credits song, "Juntos Lo Haremos Bien", translating roughly to "We Go Together Well." Girls really do just wanna have fun, at least the Swedish girls of Those Dancing Days in the "I'll Be Yours" music video.

Those Dancing Days performs the English tune "I'll Be Yours" (3:26) in a video showing the Swedish girl band both rocking out onstage and goofing around backstage. Finally, for their cover of Ritchie Valens' "Come On, Let's Go" (2:15), Girl in a Coma slips a few glimpses of sweaty staged concert in with the movie's motorcycle ride clips.

Out of this 50-minute lot of extras, the DVD only includes "Putting on Prom" and the bloopers. Ouch. Even digital download of the movie includes the Allstar Weekend, Neon Trees, and Moon music videos alongside those two short features. And should you suspect disc space was a concern, the DVD checks in nearly 2 GB (or around 25%) under dual-layered capacity.

In the "who cares?" department, I must point out that both the Blu-ray and DVD include the studio's long-standard promos for Blu-ray 3D (4:23, featuring Timon and Pumbaa) and Disneyfile digital copies (1:04, featuring 2010 Disney movies).

Both discs open with trailers for The Muppets, Cars 2 (trying a different approach), and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Other ads play post-feature and promos via the DVD's FastPlay mode and from the menu's "Sneak Peeks" listing after the disc-openers are repeated. These second stringers advertise Disney Movie Rewards, the Prom soundtrack, "Shake It Up", African Cats, and, a DVD-only ad for a DVD-only release, Prep & Landing. All these and yet Prom's own trailer is missing.

The DVD main menu for Disney's "Prom" is almost identical to its Blu-ray equivalent.

On both formats, the collage main/only menu alternates snapshots and clips in one place while listings appear on a torn, wrinkled piece of notebook paper.

The gray DVD and full-color Blu-ray claim opposite sides of a side-snapped standard Blu-ray case, which is topped by an embossed, bordered, and otherwise redundant cardboard slipcover (even though the standalone DVD sports a different cover design). Two inserts promote 3D, combo packs, and Disney Movie Rewards, the last most persuasively with a unique code currently worth 150 points.

The Blu-ray remembers where you left off playback of the movie, but only after you get past all the logos, disclaimers, and auto-playing trailers. Disney appears to be behind the curve when it comes to Blu-ray resuming and bookmarking capabilities.

Disney's "Prom" is just like your prom, except not at all.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Prom is a cutesy, toothless addition to the annals of high school comedy. It is less of a film and more of a product, a failed attempt to manufacture an inexpensive Disney Channel-type franchise on the spot. Though formulaic, fake, and flawed in numerous other ways, the movie is nonetheless a bit more enjoyable than those who have written it off would expect. Still, it's too childish for teens and too much of a romantic comedy for kids, so it's tough to see this becoming a favorite for many, at least until nostalgia kicks in.

Disney's Blu-ray delivers a knockout feature presentation and a solid near-hour of entertaining bonus features. It's just too bad that the majority of consumers are left to go without, with the DVD getting a mere two out of the many extras. If I really liked Prom and lacked a Blu-ray setup, that slap in the face would probably discourage me from getting either edition at least until price drops kicked in. On a movie as unloved as this, they shouldn't take long.

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Prom Songs List (in order of use): Those Dancing Days - "I'll Be Yours", Simple Plan - "Can't Keep My Hands Off You", Opus Orange featuring Lauren Hillman - "Almost There", A Sunny Day in Glasgow - "100/0 (Snowdays Forever)", Stick Hippo - "Stick Hippo", Attack Rabbit! - "Fill in the Blank", The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - "Heart in Your Heartbreak", Moon - "Time Stand", Rachel McClusky - "Secret Crush", Neon Trees - "1983", Those Dancing Days - "Can't Find Entrance", Keili Lefkovitz - "Party", Shere - "In Deep", The Naked and Famous - "Young Blood", Girl in a Coma - "Come On, Let's Go", Oh Darling! - "Prettiest Thing", East Hundred - "Slow Burning Crimes", The Weepies - "Please Speak Well of Me", Smith Westerns - "Weekend", M83 - "Too Late", Shout Out Louds - "Impossible", Taio Cruz featuring Ludacris - "Break Your Heart Ft Ludacris", Katy Perry - "Firework", Neon Trees - "Your Surrender", Allstar Weekend - "Not Your Birthday", Passion Pit - "Dreams", Band of Horses - "No One's Gonna Love You", Travie McCoy - "We'll Be Alright", Nolan Sotillo - "We Could Be Anything"

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Reviewed September 6, 2011.



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