Who's In It: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonnell, DeVaughn Nixon, Danielle Campbell, Yin Chang, Jared Kusnitz, Nolan Sotillo, Cameron Monaghan, Kylie Bunbury, Joe Adler, Janelle Ortiz, Jonathan Keltz, Nicholas Braun, Raini Rodriguez, Christine Elise, Faith Ford, Dean Norris
The Basics: A huge cast of squeaky-clean adolescents obsess about prom night and how majorly important it is via one dozen criss-crossing plotlines (probable rejected title: Prom, Actually). According to various characters, all of whom eat, sleep and breathe the momentous event, it's the night that "has a way of bringing [all high school social castes] together," the one where "people who've never spoken before might find common ground," your "last chance to make anyone remember you went [to high school at all]" and an opportunity to leave your old persona behind. Unless you're Carrie White, that is. Then it's the night the head cheerleader pours a bucket of pig's blood all over you and you wipe out every single last one of those jerks with your telekinetic murder-powers.
What’s The Deal: If my high-school-age niece sees this movie, I predict a lot of eye-rolling on her part. She’s most likely already seen Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club on TV and will recognize the teenagers on display here as the Disney Channel aliens they are. But her eight year-old sister is going to eat it up like ice cream, the same way she devoured High School Musical before it. That’s because while it’s ostensibly about high school kids, it’s not for them. Instead, it’s a children’s film about how cool it’s going to be when they get to be big and can drive a car and stay up late and go out to a huge party. Know that going in and you might actually find yourself having a decent time instead of fighting the urge to shout “LIES!” at the screen.
Teen Marriage Equivalency Exam: Because I’m a thousand years old now, I realize that a lot of high school rituals have probably changed since I was there. But I do not remember anything resembling the baroque pageantry of “The Ask” techniques in this movie. Apparently, in 2011, getting your chosen one to accompany you to the event is about making a giant, suitable-for-YouTube spectacle out of the proposal regardless of logistics or cost. Meanwhile, it’s all still up to the boys, of course, and the girls are required to hyperventilate and treat it like it’s a permission slip to practice-shop for wedding gowns. Actually, for all I know, people did that stuff when I was in high school and I just ignored it. I skipped my junior year prom to go see The Empire Strikes Back.
Most Annoying '80s Teen Movie Reference: Just like John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything, there’s a male character here who looks very much like a young Cusack and whose name is also Lloyd. He spends the movie eagerly yet haplessly asking several girls to prom. They don’t go so far as to place a vintage boombox in his upstretched arms, but it’s still pretty shameless for a film this divorced from actual teen angst.