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Movie Review

'Prom'

A teen-friendly prom? Whose reality is this?

Aimee Teegarden (pictured) and Thomas McDonell star in the sugary-sweet Disney film “Prom.’’ Aimee Teegarden (pictured) and Thomas McDonell star in the sugary-sweet Disney film “Prom.’’ (Richard Foreman Jr./Walt Disney Pictures)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / April 29, 2011

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As far as I can tell, there are two audiences for “Prom,’’ the latest movable unit of Disney product. They are: A) 12-year-old girls who think high school is going to be like a cable-TV movie, and B) actual high school girls nostalgic for the days when they thought high school was going to be like a cable-TV movie. Their mothers may want to play, too. Fathers, husbands, and boyfriends? Not so much.

“In three weeks, ‘Starry Night’ will be Brooksides’ best prom ever!’’ No, that’s not Judy Garland talking to Mickey Rooney, or Archie to Veronica, but squeaky-clean class president Nova (Aimee Teegarden) speaking to her worshipful minions. The course of prom night never does run smooth, so writer Katie Wech throws in complications: a fire that destroys the decorations and forces Nova to work overtime with Jesse (Thomas McDonell), the class delinquent who has to help her in order to get his diploma. Good girl meets bad boy — jeepers, can it ever work out?

Under Joe Nussbaum’s efficient direction, the rest of “Prom’’ is taken up with tiny, watchable secondary dramas. Nova’s friend Mei (Yin Chang) has to tell her boyfriend (Jared Kusnitz) she’s not going to college with him but to Parsons instead. Jordan (Kylie Bunbury) needs to find the willpower to dump her playa star-athlete boyfriend Tyler (DeVaughn Nixon), who’s dogging sophomore Simone (Danielle Campbell), who’s the object of a classmate’s (Nolan Sotillo) affections. All these crises seem monumental and all are resolved by the ad break — I mean the end credits.

That “Prom’’ plays as pleasantly and inoffensively as it does is due to the performances, particularly McDonell as the rebellious Jesse. He brings the relaxed insouciance of a young Johnny Depp to his watered-down role, and he’s easy enough on the eyes for the film’s target demo. (A recent subject-heading on the actor’s IMDb message boards reads “Hello unknown hottie.’’) Teegarden may fare better on TV’s “Friday Night Lights’’; here she’s all adorable grimaces and shrugs.

“Prom’’ is deeply unthreatening stuff — “Gossip Girl’’ without the sex, “Skins’’ without the drugs, “Glee’’ without the show tunes and dysfunction — and that’s the reason for its existence. It’s a sweet, generic safe harbor for young kids, parents, and those teenagers who want to hide from the world for a couple of hours. All the girls are pretty and ethnically balanced (and if they’re not pretty, they’re funny, and if they’re not funny, they don’t exist). All the bad boys are misunderstood. There are no mean girls or bullies, nor is there a computer or barely a cellphone in sight. And at the end everyone forgets their differences and dances. Where do we sign up?

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. To follow him, go to www.twitter.com/tyburr.

PROM

Directed by: Joe Nussbaum

Written by: Katie Wech

Starring: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, DeVaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 104 minutes

Rated: PG (mild language and a brief fight)

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