The Prom (4 stars)

The Prom

Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and more, light up Ryan Murphy's wonderfully wild high school musical

'This is our moment to change the world. One lesbian at a time!' trill a quartet of self-important luvvies of varying degrees of success, as they seek to boost their own flagging profiles by jumping on the back of a high-schooler's cause. Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy (also known for American Horror Story, Ratched and Pose) returns to the madness of the musical, for a high-energy and hilarious take on the Broadway hit.

After something of a rushed start, the film finds its groove when the foursome – Meryl Streep's fading icon Dee Dee, Nicole Kidman's aging chorus girl Angie, James Corden's 'gay as a bucket of wigs' B-lister Barry, and Andrew Rannell's cheesy sitcom star Trent – rock up in small-town Indiana to save the day. Their outlandish entrance at a school meeting causes visible bewilderment, as these 'liberals from Broadway' arrive to prise open minds with a series of acceptance-themed song and dance routines.

The target of their flamboyantly bestowed attention is sweet, unassuming Emma (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman), who simply wants to take her girlfriend to the prom and whose very request has unleashed a storm of controversy. Luckily, she's being supported by the school principal Mr Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key), but they're up against a real bi-atch in PTA chair Mrs Greene (Kerry Washington, nicely mean work from her), who is unaware that her own daughter, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), would be Emma's date.

Adapted by two of the original show's creators, Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin, The Prom bounces along on the strength of its sassy dialogue and terrifically penned songs, performed with gusto by the ensemble. Playing a very thin-skinned diva, Streep is a hoot as you'd expect, yet the highlights are shared around (though Kidman fans may be disappointed by her lack of prominence), with Rannells snagging a couple of extravagantly witty numbers – including one set at a monster trucks event, where he's the embarrassingly misjudged half-time entertainment.

In many, many ways, the scenario doesn't make a great deal of sense (although Emma's story is based on a real-life case from 2010), but it wears that on its sleeve. Moreover, its intentions are so honourable that The Prom is actually rather touching, while the fun everyone is evidently having here is obscene. And, given the timing of its release, how wonderfully appropriate that the whole darn thing is as camp as Christmas.

Available to watch in cinemas and on Netflix from Fri 11 Dec.

The Prom

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 2h 10min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Ryan Murphy
  • Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, Jo Ellen Pellman
  • UK release: 11 December 2020

A troupe of Broadway stars descend upon a small town in Indiana to help a young teen bring her girlfriend to prom.