The Prom: It’s A Musical in a High School, but Not That One – Netflix Review

It’s not the best musical, but it was fun.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

The head of the PTA of Edgewater, Indiana, Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), cancels the prom rather allowing a female student named Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) attend as an open lesbian. Emma, who already lives with her grandmother Bea (Mary Kay Place) after getting disowned by her parents, gets harassed over being gay by most of the students, except for her closeted girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), Mrs. Greene’s daughter. At the same time, Broadway Stars Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden) have a show close on opening night (apparently). They meet up with failed actors Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) and Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman) and decide to build up some good publicity by helping Emma. While the principal of the school, Tom Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key), is excited by the presence of the Stars, particularly Dee Dee, it turns out that a group of actors might not be the best at relating to a group of conservative Indianans… until the musical magic takes over, at least.

Three celebrities and a high-school principal. Typical.


I get why this film isn’t quite taking off the way Netflix clearly hoped. It’s tough to really give this movie a fair evaluation because it’s a happy uptempo musical addressing a dark and personal subject like homophobia. While there are a ton of musicals that have handled unpleasant subjects well, Urinetown and Rent, for example, this movie sort of hand-waves any actual consequences at the end of the story. It’s hard to pretend that it’s giving the weight that Emma’s struggle deserves while also watching a ton of people literally change their minds in a 4 minute song. Okay, it’s 4:31, per the soundtrack, but that extra 31 seconds doesn’t add a lot. 

Granted, it’s hard to be bigoted against such cuteness.

That said, if you’re willing to accept unrealistic and massive changes as part of the magical logic of a musical world, then this movie’s pretty good. The cast is amazing, as you probably guessed when you see Kerry Washington, Meryl Streep, Keegan-Michael Key, and Nicole Kidman on the cast list. That’s a murderer’s row of acting and they mostly bring their A-game. I still have not forgiven James Corden for Cats and his performance in this movie as a gay stereotype did not help, but he clearly loves to do a musical number and that really does help every time he’s on screen. Jo Ellen Pellman, who is making her film debut, comes out strong, particularly as one of the only people who sings like she’s actually in a Broadway musical, and, being a young queer woman, she adds a level of believability to the character that this movie needed. 

And she rocks a suit.

The songs are all very entertaining and the choreography is likewise. I particularly like the song by Meryl Streep “The Lady’s Improving,” which is performed by cutting between her singing it in the present and her past performance for which she apparently won a Tony. It’s a nice effect that you couldn’t really pull off on stage and it gives you a little bit more insight into the character. I’ll also say that almost any song that Jo Ellen Pellman sings stands out in the film, not just because of her voice but because they all feel the most sincere. 

Meryl can do what she wants. Always.

Overall, it’s a pretty good movie, it just has some fundamental issues on trying to tackle something bigger than it can handle.  

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: I Took a Chance on It and It was Super, Trouper – Amazon Review (Day 25)

I watched the sequel to one of my least favorite musicals and, wow, this was better.


Meryl Streep is dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever, about that. I considered this a surprise, as I thought she was marketed with the film, but if advertisements were always true indications of a film, I might have liked Suicide Squad

Yes, one of these women is dead the whole time.

Yes, Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, is dead and her daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is set to reopen the hotel now under her management. While she is being helped by the manager Mr. Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia) and her father Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), she is upset that her other fathers, Harry and Bill (Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård), are not able to make the grand re-opening. This gets even worse when her husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper), reveals that he will not be able to come either. As Donna’s band members Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski) show up, the film flashes back to tell the story of how a young Donna (Lily James) left Rosie and Tanya (Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn) behind to go explore Europe and meeting young Harry, Bill, and Sam (Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine). Also, we get to see Cher.


 So, I saw Mamma Mia after it originally came out and I did not enjoy it. I thought it was an amazing travel commercial for Greece, but in terms of being an effective musical, even a Jukebox Musical, I felt like it fell short. Honestly, I didn’t think Meryl Streep was as focused and flawless as she usually is and I thought that the songs didn’t really add much to the story, a common problem with trying to do a musical based on one band’s catalogue. The film always felt too grounded in reality for a musical, too, which seemed partially because it had to focus on the leads over the spectacle. Moreover, it sometimes felt to me like an example of why you should not cast certain actors (names have been changed for the sake of the victims) like Bierce Prosnan as leads in a movie like this. They’re great performers, but it’s completely different to pull off a musical number. 

This movie apparently read the notes from that one, because they fixed almost everything I didn’t like. 

But they kept the fun group shots, so great job.

First, it is not at all grounded. Scenes in this range from “over-the-top” to “insane” and I mean both of those in the absolute best way. In order to find justifications for some of ABBA’s more outlandish songs, the musical was forced to venture to situations far outside of a Greek hotel. For example, “Waterloo” is set at a Napoleonic themed restaurant in Paris, and all of the wait staff perform elaborate choreography designed to echo famous portrayals of the French Emperor. It starts to feel like you’re really in the kind of world where people are always on the edge of bursting into song. It also helps that more random bystanders get wrapped up in the music, like when a Vice Chancellor (Celia Imrie) goes from “well, I never” to “well, I always” in the middle of “When I Kissed the Teacher.” 

Waterloo was probably my favorite scene.

Second, the flashback cast is unbelievably good. Lily James really nails being a wild, young Donna, because she captures all of Meryl Streep’s joie de vivre without the regret we see for her circumstances in the first film. Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn (from Ed Wynn’s family, no less) both have the same comedic timing as their modern counterparts, but also have the requisite energy to keep up with Lily James. Hugh Skinner, the one playing young Colin Firth, was so spot on that I realized what character he was supposed to be immediately. Given how good he was on Fleabag, I suppose I should not have been surprised. While the other two young bachelors are also excellent, I will say that they didn’t really come off as young versions of their older counterparts as much as he did. Still, they were solid and believable as people that young Donna would want to have a romantic adventure with. Also, they’re much better singers than their aged counterparts, sparing us some performance issues. It did bother me that Young Stellan was not played by one of his ~25 children, but I got over it.

Wait, was this the 1970s? Because then Amanda Seyfried would be almost 50.

Third, they added Cher. I didn’t actually list this as a problem in the first movie, but, let’s be honest, every musical that DOESN’T have Cher in it is inherently inferior. While the movie does not have her in a ton of it, when she does show up and perform, it’s a powerful boost to the third act. 

God, you diva, you deserve everything you want.

Last, they definitely bumped up the dialogue for this film. I’m not saying that it’s deeper or more sincere; in fact, the opposite is true. This movie has more quips and funny one-liners that better suit the nature of a jukebox musical. There are some sincere moments, to be sure, but most of what keeps the film going are humorous interactions between the cast and this movie takes that up a notch. Admittedly, most of the good lines went to Christine Baranski, but she uses them to their fullest.

That woman has more sass in her eye shadow than most people do in their bodies.

Overall, I was amazed how good this movie was and how much of an improvement over the last film. I don’t know that you can watch it without having seen the first one, but if you already suffered through the first one, this is a must-see.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.