No movie with “F*&%” in its title is suitable for tweens.
So no, whatever intern writes the “guidance” blurb on Netflix films. “F*&% the Prom,” the Bully Boys/Mean Girls/Meaner Gays comedy by Benny Fine isn’t pre-teen appropriate. Take it from somebody who has written syndicated “parents guide” columns for some of the nation’s biggest newspaper wire services.
It doesn’t matter how many movies and cable TV shows feature parents freely cursing, sexually teasing and taunting their kids (“Every Day,” TV’s “Divorce” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Big Little Lies,” for instance) you’ve seen. That’s a Hollywood Cali-normification of something that most of us still find coarse and not optimal parenting.
That said, “Prom” isn’t hateful. It’s a half-funny “Mean Girls” revenge comedy about outcasts brought together to nuke the signal event that defines the kids “who win high school,” and those they teased, taunted and tormented — senior prom. And it’s a half-serious “High School Popularity Doesn’t Matter” lecture in the form of farce.
So yeah, like most of us in high school, it has its moments — just not enough of them.
Maddie (Danielle Campbell of TV’s “Starstruck,” “Alive in Denver”) and Cole (Joel Courtney of “Super 8”) grew up next to each other, the best of friends. We see them race their bikes together on that first day of high school.
And then Cole gets pantsed by a jock on his way in the door, an unshakable nickname (“Tidy,” for obvious reasons) is born and he is outcast for life. Maddie? She grows up to be sex symbol of the cheerleading squad, sharing the school’s attention with her cruel redheaded “M & M” sister, Marissa (Madelaine Petsch).
Maddie has nothing to do with Cole. The “Emo” girl “City” (Meg DeLacy, a highlight of the movie) is the only one who pals around with him and appreciates his art.
In Charles Adams (“Home of The Legals”) High, even the teachers gossip and follow the popular “On Fleek” or “pidg” (“preening pigeon”) kids on Instagram, indulging their cell-phone addiction in class. The principal (one-time child star Nicholle Tom) is a vapid tart whose daily video announcements push prom as the ultimate validation of “the cool kids,” rubbing the noses of everybody else in school, demanding conformity.
When Maddie gets a taste of how cruel she and her clique are, Cole is there for a little comfort, and thanks to City, a plot is hatched. They’re going to “Carrie” the school’s prom, sabotage everything from limos to tanning beds, social media to the prom punch.
It’ll be a “night to remember,” all right.
A clever touch — reminding the kids that this poisonous form of peer-pressure goes back generations. Maddie’s folks (Cheri Oteri and Richard Karn) had a wildly different high school experience from Cole’s jock-dad (“90210” and “Sharknado” legend Ian Ziering).
Co-writer/director Fine (“Sing It!”) cooks up some smart flashbacks — montages of bad proms of the past, and the ugly ways the gang of misfits Cole and Maddie pull together got their stigmatizing class nicknames. “Sweats” may be obvious, “Strings,” for the Orthodox Jewish kid (Brendan Calton) almost as obvious.
For a film aimed at teens, this one leans pretty heavily on ethnic and gender stereotypes, and as in most movies with high school settings — the school here is awash in hormones and seriously revealing teen (girls only) outfits.
I did get a kick out of the banter, the slang the kids use to deliver put-downs and the subjects — movies, selfie-obsession — they poke each other with.
“D’you ever see ‘Boyhood’?”
“Are you high?”
“A little, but that doesn’t mean I don’t mean what I say!”
“You’ve never taken a selfie? You’re a selfie virgin? A SERGIN?”
“F*&% the Prom” isn’t terrible. But it’s never quite mean enough, never quite as clever as its creators figure it is, not remotely as edgy/vampy and over-the-top as it would have been as an R-rated feature (High school is R-rated these days.), not cute enough to be a Disney-ish high school spoof.
And it’s certainly not what Netflix wants to pitch it as — entertainment for “11 and 12 year olds.”
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, profanity, sex toys, sexual situations
Cast: Danielle , Joel Courtney, Meg DeLacy, Cheri Oteri, Richard Karn, Nicholle Tom
Credits:Directed by Benny Fine script by and Rafi Fine, Benny Fine, Molly Prather. An Orchard release.
Running time: 1:30