"Prom" is pure bubble gum, from its shiny wrapping to its mushy insides to its fleeting aftertaste. And sometimes, there's nothing wrong with chewing bubble gum. Attention, pubescents: "Prom" is such a time.
Brookside High School is the place. It exists in some nameless middle-class suburb somewhere in the great old U-S-of-A where the worst things afflicting its student body are detention and unrequited puppy love. (Teen pregnancy? Bah!) Free of irony, "Prom" is a squeaky-clean, fairy-tale teenage romcom that makes "The Breakfast Club" look edgy.
And that's just fine, because this Disney product does strait-laced fairly well.
Our guide through prom season is Nova (played by Aimee Teegarden from "Friday Night Lights"), a blond-haired, straight-A student on her way to Georgetown with a full academic ride. But before she graduates to the real world, nothing else matters but prom. For her, it's not so much a rite of passage as something more akin to Manifest Destiny.
Her problem: She doesn't have a date. Enter Jesse, the hunky, prom-hating, motorcycle-driving, misunderstood rebel. Otherwise known as young-guy-who-looks-exactly-like-Johnny-Depp (aka actor Thomas McDonell).
In a series of misbegotten events (that need no further explanation other than they were misbegotten) the pair must work together on this year's massive prom decorations. Cue indie pop soundtrack and -- bam -- their bellicose relationship turns into a star-crossed love affair.
"Prom" is populated with the usual cast of high school archetypes: jocks, geeks, stoners, jock girlfriends, etc. Their couplings get screen time, too, as they all prepare for the "forever night" (Nova's words).
The humor in "Prom" is colored with enough snark to balance the gooey romance, with the best jokes revolving around the travails of the school's geek caste. One of them relates the fun of finding a prom date to "sledding and getting paralyzed."
Even for them, prom is the be-all and end-all. That other major high school obsession -- hint: S-E-X -- is never mentioned. The young actors are brash and bold in their looks, but they barely go to first base. Alas, there's a certain nobility in the film's all-around wholesomeness.
The dramatic acting might be a bit wooden, but this is high-quality plywood. "Prom" is a harmless jaunt into a fanciful teenage world where the last dance really is the only thing that matters. There's a message here, and it sounds something like this: Kids, dream while you still can.