The Prom

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
The Prom Movie Poster Image
 Popular with kids
Star-studded, slightly edgy musical is all about acceptance.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 132 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 35 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Love comes in all forms. Put others' interests above your own. Gay teens need and deserve the acceptance of their peers, parents, and community. Love thy neighbor. Theater provides a necessary escape from real life. Human connection can cross social, racial, sexual, gender, class, and geographical boundaries.

Positive Role Models

The Broadway celebrities take on a cause for selfish reasons, but wind up caring deeply, making a difference. They begin as narcissists and end as generous facilitators. Parents and teens treat a lesbian teen cruelly, just as a man recalls he was treated as a gay teen in the 1990s, but they repent their mean behavior. Emma shows courage in coming out in a conservative community. Mrs. Greene puts a lot of pressure on her daughter to be perfect but discovers she'll love and accept her daughter however she is. Some stereotypes about gay people, small-town citizens, New York theater folks.

Violence

Emotional abuse is discussed in an adult and a teen who are both scarred by being kicked out of their homes by parents unable to accept their homosexuality. A newspaper reviewer suggests it would be better to hang yourself than to go see a particular play.

Sex

A teen wants to take her girlfriend (who isn't yet out) to the prom; they share a kiss. Another couple kisses briefly. Lyrics to one song talk about boys getting "overheated," girls looking "hot," and "even I would do me." Another song mentions virginity and masturbation. Boys perform elaborate "prom-posals" at school. Dee Dee alludes to her ex-husband's affairs.

Language

Words include "s--t," "bulls--t," "ass," "damn," "hell," and "crappy." Insults range from "jerk" and "idiot" to "butchy" and "bigoted monsters." Mention of "humping," "MILF," and a review that "castrated" an actor. People say "God," "oh my God," "for God's sake," and "Jesus."

Consumerism

Middle America's Kmart, Sears, and Applebee's are contrasted with New York's Saks and Sardi's. The celebrities work on Broadway, studied at Juilliard, win Tony Awards, have money and houses in the Hamptons. Also mentioned or shown: Greyhound, Google, Instagram, YouTube, Orbitz, Spanx, MacBook, Haagen-Dazs, McDonald's, and various mall stores.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Angie is constantly drinking or talking about drinking and controlling her "day drinking." She gives Trent a pill that she slyly notes will treat motion sickness "and everything else." The adult celebrities drown their sorrows and celebrate with alcohol. Trent works as a bartender between gigs. A lyric mentions Xanax.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the overwhelmingly positive core message of The Prom -- which is based on the Broadway musical and directed by the creator of Glee -- is to accept others, regardless of their sexuality, wealth, celebrity, or heritage. But to get to that point, both adult and teen characters must work through their own prejudices and problems, resulting in some emotionally intense scenes, especially between parents and their gay kids. Still, the film is ultimately more comedy and music than drama. Midwest small-towners and New York celebrities find common ground, although both are stereotyped. Several characters are gay, with some stereotyping about what that means. Some mature themes come up in lyrics, including Christian messages, masturbation, virginity, narcissism, life's disappointments, and wanting to love whoever you please. Adults drink, and one character talks about controlling her "day drinking." Language includes "s--t," "bulls--t," "ass," "damn," "hell," "crappy," "humping," "MILF," and "castrated." Meryl Streep, James Corden, and Kerry Washington co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJeana95 December 10, 2020

A feel good musical about love

We loved this movie and can’t wait to see it again! It was a fun journey into a fantasy world where you sing about joy and sadness. Such a great movie! My daugh... Continue reading
Parent Written bykjoycounselor February 9, 2021

Rich with positive messages

The rare mild curses and adults referencing drinking are easily overpowered by the positive messages about self-love, advocacy, acceptance, by-standing vs stand... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byPuppyloveramazing December 2, 2020

Don’t listen to the first review

It gives a positive message about living in a place where you aren’t always accepted. Don’t listen to the review that says “Lesbian Kissing, sex talk, and swear... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCool Kidz. January 29, 2021

It shows you how some people are unjust! I wouldn't watch it again. Loved the songs, though.

I think a mature thirteen year old could watch this. Honestly, I won't see this movie again, but that's just me. Duh it's a good movie, there... Continue reading

What's the story?

Broadway stars Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden) decide they need a celebrity cause to rehabilitate their reputations and overcome their latest scathing reviews in THE PROM. Together with fading chorus girl Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman) and between-gigs Juilliard grad Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells), they decide to travel to small-town Indiana to support a high schooler, Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), whose desire to take her closeted girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), to prom has prompted the bigoted local PTA, led by Alyssa's mom (Kerry Washington), to cancel the event entirely. Emma has the support of the school principal (Keegan-Michael Key), who turns out to be a huge fan of Dee Dee's. But the Broadway folks will face a rude awakening when they swoosh into town only to find their presence elicits no special treatment and they can't instantly solve problems with a song and a dance. Instead, they'll have to face up to their actual motivations and put their own interests aside, for once, to connect with the locals and support Emma.

Is it any good?

Check your cynicism at the door before attending The Prom, a teen coming-out tale stuffed into a glitzy tux and bedazzled with schmaltz and splashy musical numbers. If you do, you'll be rewarded with 132 minutes of undemanding and giddily self-aware entertainment. The all-star cast looks to be having a blast barging into rooms, scarves billowing, belting tongue-in-cheek lyrics about setting the cow-tipping Midwest folk straight and sharing the true message of Christianity. Don't fear: The film forces the pompous New York libs to face their biases too. Leave it to Indianapolis-born director Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, to pay gently teasing tribute to the deep human necessity for the arts, the empathy-creating nature of high school drama clubs, and the ultimately good folks of Indiana (especially the moms) and Broadway all in one film.

The Prom serves as a golden-hued showcase for Streep and Corden, who primp, strut, sing, dance and convincingly emote in scenes where their characters are obliged to reckon with their own shortcomings and pasts. Kidman oddly fades into the background in a subdued performance that may be fitting for her role as the long-overlooked chorus girl but feels less intentional than that. Key, Pellman, Washington, and the multifaceted Rannells all have their own starring moments or big numbers. As its many wink-wink lyrics suggest, this film knows some will suffer it like choking on a "syrup-soaked American flag." Others will welcome the escape from a more contentious reality to this fictionally wholesome place where people randomly break into song, unquestioningly dance in unison, and all just get along.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their own experiences with intolerance, as characters grapple with in The Prom. What can you do to promote acceptance of all people?

  • What stereotypes does the film show the Broadway celebrities have of Midwesterners? Are the theater folk stereotyped as well?

  • Which musical number was your favorite, and why?

  • How does Emma show courage? Why is this an important quality?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music

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