Comedy Movie

Prom Dates

“Prom Dates,” about a couple of teenage best-bud girls getting in trouble during the run-up to prom, is a raunchy, R-rated but warmhearted teen comedy. It operates in a mode that’s been around for decades but reached its 21st century zenith in “Superbad” and got a social media-era upgrade in “Booksmart.” It was written by D.J. Mausner and directed by Kim O. Nguyen, who came up mainly through TV sitcoms, and has a sitcom-y feel, despite wide-format cinematography that’s supposed to say “this is different, it’s cinema.” It mostly feels like a very long pilot for a Netflix show that would go to series, build a modest but loyal following, then get canceled after two seasons so the streamer doesn’t have to give everyone a raise for going to three. But there’s loads of talent in it. 

The friends are Jess (Antonia Gentry) and Hannah (Julia Lester). When they were just 13, they hid under a table at a prom they’d snuck into and made a promise that Hannah’s date would be the “love of her life” while Jess would be the most popular girl at school and be named prom queen. Five years later senior prom is coming up and all is chaos. Jess hopes to cement her chances at winning the crown by going with a handsome but shallow rich kid named Luca (Jordan Buhat), but she catches him cheating the night before prom and dumps him. (After Luca’s secret other hookup storms out, he says to the room, “Siri, pause ‘Sexy Time Playlist.'”)

Hannah, meanwhile, doesn’t have a date lined up but gets invited, in song and in the middle of a school assembly, by her obsessive Number One fan Greg (Kenny Ridwan, channeling Mike Yanagita in “Fargo” something fierce). She says yes but her heart’s not in it, not just because Greg is annoying and has no sense of boundaries, but because Hannah is a lesbian and hasn’t come out to anyone yet, not even Jess. 

A long portion of the movie takes place at a college mixer where copious amounts of alcohol and drugs are consumed, and much sex is attempted (though not much actually had). The story flips around on itself multiple times, and would it surprise you to learn that in the end, the girls realize that all they really needed was each other? Well, that plus a bit of wish fulfillment that feels well-deserved by the time it finally arrives.

A lot of “Prom Dates” sounds and moves in accordance with the post-millennium, industry-standard cliches of scripted comedy, which include cathartic or transformative moments that are cruelly cut short by unexpected eruptions of body fluids (puke and blood in this one) and scenes where people have deadpan conversations with individuals at parties who don’t realize how truly, deeply weird they are (quite a rogue’s gallery here, including an aspiring serial killer and a young woman named Heather who discovered liquid courage and renamed herself Vodka Heather).  

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