The new Disney+ movie ‘Prom Pact’ is in love with the ’80s. A period that essentially gave birth to the complete ‘high-school-experience’ subgenre, which has since been embraced and passed down through generations. Anya Adams, who is known for directing numerous TV Shows like Black-ish, Ginny & Georgia, and most recently, A League of Their Own, is making her feature-length debut with a sort of re-working of the 80s high school movies. 

Her protagonist is Mandy Yang (Peyton Elizabeth Lee), a smart, postmodern, pro-feminist senior who is mostly just defined by her ambitious need to crack into Harvard. In fact, when we first meet her, she is scanning through the school’s lost-and-found, frantically looking for the status of her application at the esteemed institute. The rest of the school is gathered for the announcement of the Prom Night theme. Mandy is also subsequently defined by her close friendship with Ben (Milo Manheim), who, like Mandy, is a sort of outcast who frowns upon the rest of the popular bunch – naming them ‘everesters’ for having peaked through in their lives. 

When Mandy’s application doesn’t go through, and she is waitlisted, she and Ben come up with an elaborate plan to get what they want. Their Prom Pact is to go to the prom together, but before that, they are going to charm the pants off the school heartthrob Graham Lansing (Blake Draper) so that they can get to his senator father, who can possibly write a letter of recommendation for Mandy. As long shot as that plan sounds, Mandy and her besties lean upon each other to really get into the whole high-school scene they have been avoiding thus far.

Many of their inhibitions and prejudices come to the foreground. Their judgemental state is fractured when they both get over-involved in their respective crushes, leaving a gap in their friendship that has been their whole personality up until now. 

Now, Pom Pact is a fairly harmless film. It simultaneously feels like a John Hughes homage while also feeling like a straightforward indictment of the genre itself. The popular bunch in Anya Adams’ movie is never villainized, nor are the outcasts portrayed as smart people who know it all but cannot function in the real world. In fact, the film chooses to portray all people with a feather touch, allowing us not to judge any of them. And even though the narrative feels familiar, its message of balancing the fun with the important things in life feels well-earned and thought upon. 

That said, the negatives simply outweigh the positives. To put it into perspective, the protagonist, at least for a major chunk of the film, feels absolutely irritating. Peyton Elizabeth Lee has a fairly engaging screen presence, and she is totally competent to pull it off, but the writing majorly disappoints her character and her motivations.

The film also tries to give some 3-dimensional last lap to the jock character, but it either feels too busy with its central conflict or with its blooming romance to ever truly achieve that feat. The film’s choice of simultaneously embracing and upending the cliches set by high-school films of the 80s feels like a last resort excuse, and all its woke agendas of representation, white privilege, and climate crisis feel like they are super-imposed onto a narrative that has no space for them. 

Prom Pact might still be able to win you over because the chemistry between Lee and Mannheim is truly beautiful. However, the story felt like a half-gender flip on Olivia Wilde’s fantastic debut feature, ‘Booksmart,’ except it doesn’t stay true to its subversive elements and ends up with a trite conclusion that doesn’t sit right. 

Related to Prom Pact: Do Revenge (2022) Netflix Review: A Hitchcockian reworking of the teenage school-girl trope that doesn’t always hit the highs

Prom Pact (2023) Movie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Prom Pact (2023) Movie Cast – Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Milo Mannheim, Blake Draper, Monique A. Green
Where to watch Prom Pact

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