It's not just prom, it's Disney's "Prom." And so no one smokes, no one sneaks in peach schnapps in a flask and no one -- that's right, no one -- gets lucky in the back of a limo.
This is all about that magical night when everyone gets together, regardless of the social hierarchy that had been firmly in place for the past four years, and dreams come true. Wholesome, earnest dreams for wholesome, earnest kids -- except for the resident bad boy, that is. But naturally, he'll turn out to have a heart of gold.
Yes, director Joe Nussbaum's film, from a script by first-timer Katie Wech, is chock-full of high school movie cliches -- sometimes knowingly and amusingly so. There's a tall, misfit character named Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) who resembles "Say Anything "-era John Cusack -- a tall, misfit character named Lloyd. His awkward attempts at landing a prom date represent the film's most consistent source of laughs.
Of course, straight-arrow good girl Nova (Aimee Teegarden) will get stuck working with motorcycle-riding rebel Jesse (Thomas McDonell), and they will see through their respective prejudices to not only get along but fall for each other. Various other couples will suffer through missed opportunities and miscommunication and come out better for them in the end.
"Prom" is so steadfastly family friendly, even the dude who's clearly stoned the whole time -- his nickname is Rolo, like the candy -- never even comes close to taking any sort of drugs. He's just laid-back and wisecracking. You're welcome to draw your own conclusions.
There is a plot, sort of. Members of the Brookside High School senior class are getting ready for prom. Along the way, the shed where the decorations are being stored burns down. Nova, the prom coordinator and Molly Ringwald figure here, must reconstruct the whole extravaganza with the help of Jesse, the Judd Nelson figure in the equation who's been thrust upon her because he's a delinquent. Making papier-mache moons and stars will straighten him out, the principal figures.
Essentially, this feels like a Disney Channel TV show stretched out to fit the big screen. No one pops out as a major star quite like the actors did in the "High School Musical" series, but they're all harmless and good-looking and the school is sufficiently multicultural to make everyone feel comfortable and included.
Still, the sweetness and guilelessness of "Prom" is actually strangely charming, and for its target audience -- girls who are several years away from having to pick out that perfect dress -- this will be a safe, enjoyable and validating little diversion. The fact that it's not snarky and too hip is unexpectedly refreshing.
Like the 3-D Justin Bieber movie, you have to look at it through the prism of the viewers for whom it was intended. Adults know prom stinks -- they went to prom. Preteen girls are still idealistic (we hope). Let them enjoy their vicarious fun.
"Prom" means well -- and it grows on you. And it's much less of a hassle than schlepping to the real thing.
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
STARRING: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell
DIRECTOR: Joe Nussbaum
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
RATING: PG for mild language and a brief fight.
THE LOWDOWN: A group of teens deal with their upcoming prom.