The Prom

By Joanna Langfield

Look. We’re all a bunch of frayed nerves and so, if you find a little merriment in this Ryan Murphy (Trademark) overstuffing, go. Have a good time. Or at least as good a time as you can with this insistently cheerful musical adaptation.

Here’s the deal: Meryl Streep, channeling her inner Bette Midler as Patti Lupone, dives into her role as a Broadway diva who, along with her very gay co-star, (James Cordon) needs some kind of a do-gooder project to re-vamp (and I do mean vamp) their image. Conveniently, there’s a small town high school prom that’s just been canceled, because a lesbian student wants to attend with her girl friend. And it’s off to Indiana we go, a few supporting players and very little pre-planning in tow.

There’s been some nipping and tucking of the original Broadway show for this film, along with some shift in focus from the two very talented young women (JoEllen Pellman and Ariana DeBose) to more attention and on-camera time for their bigger name co-stars. While Streep gets the lion’s share of it, there’s a new scene she shares with Cordon, which might draw some tears or jeers. There’s no denying Nicole Kidman, who looks spectacular, does a nice job with the one big number she hangs around waiting for, as do underused Andrew Rannells and Keegan-Michael Key.

This Prom earns an A for its inclusivity, good intentions and high energy. But even as it tries to address some pretty potent stuff, it always feels like it’s got a big smile on its very pretty face. Maybe some will be perfectly happy with that. But maybe, just maybe, we could have had an even better time if a little salt had been sprinkled on all that sugar.