It’s about some high schoolers preparing for their prom night. That’s it. The bad news is that the casting is off: the actors look to be in their mid-20s, trying to play younger, but their own faces betray them. It’s difficult to suspend disbelief with that much age discrepancy. The good news is that the story is decent, and descends neither into gross-out humor nor overblown caricature. The adolescent characters feel real, and so do their teenage woes.
Nova (Aimee Teagarden) is the student council president in charge of the prom decorations. She has the theme picked out, she’s recruited helpers, she’s Miss Responsibility. But fate conspires against her: The storage shed containing the decorations burns to the ground. Now she has to start over, and the student assigned to help her is the “trouble” guy, with the long hair and the motorcycle and the attitude. But Jesse (Thomas McDonell) is not exactly the rebel without a cause that everyone makes him out to be.
Meanwhile, the star of the lacrosse team, Tyler (De Vaughan Nixon, who’s way too old for this role), tries to placate his longtime girlfriend while simultaneously trying to woo a sophomore, Simone (Danielle Campbell, who actually does look the part, which makes the age discrepancy issue even worse). This romance freezes out Lucas (Nolan Sotillo), a nerdy sophomore who can’t compete with the star athlete or the senior prom, but his obsession with Simone still manages to alienate his best friend.
There’s the goofy-looking dork who’s waited too long to try to find a date, and the more girls he asks, the more desperate he appears, and the less likely he is to find anyone willing to go with him. Then there’s the longtime couple (since eighth grade) who suddenly discover that they’re headed off to different colleges, and they wonder how that enforced absence is going to affect their well-established relationship. There’s the steady girlfriend jilted on the eve of the prom, the airhead guy who keeps claiming he’s dating a Victoria’s Secret model, and then he actually shows up at the dance with her. There are wardrobe malfunctions and indignant dads and intervening moms and some weepy segments about how just for one last night, everyone is together and enjoying each other’s company.
At least they don’t try to blow us away with extraordinary musical talent, as in the “Glee” series. Nor are they obsessed with football players, as they were in “Friday Night Lights.” The teachers and administrators are mostly believable, and remain quietly in the background. This one is about the kids.
No Academy Award performances. No knock-your-socks off joie de vivre, like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” or huge production of live theater, as in the wildly popular “High School Musical” series, or even the politically correct “Hairspray.” No blatant rite-of-passage sexuality, like “The Last Picture Show.” Just ordinary seniors going to their prom. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.
Ronald P. Salfen is co-pastor of United Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas