It’s always tricky to capture the magic and energy of theater on film, but Ryan Murphy and his star-studded cast are up for the challenge with his Netflix Original adaptation of the 2018 Broadway Show, The Prom.

Murphy’s The Prom tells the story of a young girl named Emma who is from a small-town and just wants to be able to take her girlfriend to the prom just like everybody else. However, the PTA, headed up by the Bible thumping Mrs. Green (Kerry Washington) refuses and instead cancels the entire event. This small-town woe goes trending on Twitter catching the eye of 4 washed-up Broadway stars (Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Andrew Rannells) who feel in order to make themselves relevant again they need to do some Liberal PR and help the girl, change the town, and surprise themselves along the way.

The Prom‘s Music Should Be It’s Strong Suit, It’s Not

The music is written by Matthew Sklar (The Wedding Singer) and Chad Beguelin (Aladdin on Broadway), and the Book is written by Beguelin and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). So, my expectations were high. I love a smart, witty, tongue-in-cheek musical, and am a huge fan of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, La Cage – especially its film version, The BirdCage, and Too Wong Foo.So, I was all set for a good time…but was wickedly let down.

Now, I’ve never seen the musical so I’m unsure of all the liberties the film takes, but for me, The Prom fails as a queer narrative. The film is a far cry from brilliant, feel-good, smartly written with fully fleshed-out characters of LGBTQIA+ films/musicals of the past. What we’re given is a drab, out of touch uncle who thinks they’re woke when really he had a 2-minute conversation with his gay barista once.

While the dialogue may feel it’s making fun of itself and liberalism, the jokes are tired and fall flat 90% of the time. Every character on screen is some form of a one-dimensional stereotype with zero depth. The music is unmemorable and the story, while being about inclusion feels incredibly dated. In 2020, are we not past inclusion stories?

Isn’t it time to write about equality because they are not one and the same? Let’s stop just opening the door – take it off the f*cking hinges! I say this not to dismiss those who still live in towns that think it’s still 1955 where inclusion isn’t a thing, but will those towns watch a movie like this and be touched and moved, and update their mindset? My guess would be no.

It Just Feels Like It Would Have Been Memorable And Progressive… 15 Years Ago

When there are current film and television shows out there telling brilliant equality stories like Love, Simon; Love, Victor; Star Trek: Discovery; even the Saved By The Bell reboot, The Prom feels out of touch and dismissive.

Even though the overall film was a let down for me, there are some people and moments that made the 2hr 12min runtime bearable. 

Jo Ellen Pellman as Emma was a shining star. Her portrayal was incredibly charming,  vulnerable, and full of life. Keegan Michael-Key has made a name for himself in the musical community with his role in Jingle Jangle: a Christmas Journey, and now as the straight musical loving  Principal, he serves the role well. Meryl Streep is just as divine as you would expect.

Streep Is Obviously Fantastic, Corden, Not So Much

Even though her character is written as a Patty Lapone, Diva type she manages to take Dee Dee from a one-dimensional stereotype to a full-fledged human being. Which I cannot say the same for the elephant in the room – James Corden. A straight man who camps up his openly gay character. I understand that Barry’s character, in both Broadway and Film, is written as flamboyant, and purposefully annoying while shouting to the world that he’s “gay as a bucket of wigs.”

However, Corden’s portrayal regresses the character to a sexuality and not a human being. Being gay isn’t a personality trait. Because of this I’m honestly baffled by Murphy, who is very vocal and dedicated his career to diminishing gay clichés, chose Corden for this role in The Prom.

Now, this isn’t to say that straight men should not play gay characters as a die-hard rule of thumb, but it is to say that when a character is written as a potentially harmful stereotype the least that could be done is to offer the role to a queer actor to portray. Especially since the whole moral of the story revolves around LGBTQIA+ rights and issues. I mean, Andrew Rennalls was right there.

All of that aside, Corden did have a lovely moment in the film when Barry meets with his mother (Tracey Ullman). At that moment, whomever Corden thought Barry was fell and we got to see a person. Seeing this made the rest of his performance even more disappointing.

The Prom premieres on Netflix Friday, December 11th. So, what do you think – will you be watching? Let me know in the comments.