Disney+ Comedy Puts Friendship at Its Center

Apr 1, 2023

At a certain point in the beginning of Prom Pact, Ben (Milo Manheim) wonders if he’s wasting precious time by judging other people’s high school experience while standing on the sidelines. That’s a pretty powerful statement and even daunting thing to realize, immediately setting the Disney+ original comedy apart from several others. It may not look like it, but the movie has a tough job: Encouraging kids to have as much fun as possible in high school while also acknowledging that it can be a harrowing experience for many people. Fortunately, Prom Pact does this gracefully.

Back in the 80s, John Hughes movies and other teenage comedies changed the game by showing the high school experience through the eyes of the outcasts. It highlighted how they were pushed into a corner in order for jocks and cheerleaders to have the time of their lives. In Prom Pact, Mandy (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) and Ben even come up with the nickname “Everests” to suggest you should just leave those people alone because they’re peaking in life. However, cinema kind of stuck with the outcast figure for the following 20+ years, and it’s great to see more movies in which there’s less of a divide between them and the popular kids.
In Prom Pact, those who are not popular are hardly losers or pariahs. They’re just normal kids who are also pretty cool depending on how you look at them. In the story, even though Mandy and Ben have their issues with the popular kids, they don’t have a vendetta against them. In fact, they are just as capable of being mean. When Mandy gets wait-listed for Harvard, she realizes she can approach a senator’s kid in order to get the politician to write her a letter of recommendation and make her college dreams come true.

For people that grew up watching 80s and 90s teen comedies, that aspect of Prom Pact is the best. The movie flips the tropes of the genre by making its protagonist kind of mean and the jock a victim of sorts. At the same time, Anthony Lombardo’s script never fails to establish Mandy as a girl who has her heart in the right place, which helps us root for her during most of the story. Every interaction she has in the movie is a joy to watch, and we just want to spend time with her.

Image via Disney+

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Another great thing about modern high school comedies is that teachers and counselors are no longer passive figures who don’t really contribute to the story. In Prom Pact, Margaret Cho manages to stand out as Ms. Chen, a woman who doesn’t stand in the way of the protagonist but also provides good advice to the girl. Cho and Lee together in a scene are a riot, and you can’t get enough of them.

Prom Pact is also committed to delivering good comedy. Director Anya Adams doesn’t rely on easy and overdone tropes, instead delivering jokes even when you’re not looking. There’s a whole subplot of a teen couple fighting that happens only in the background, and the “promvites” are perfectly dosed out so that they don’t interfere on the main story, serve as 80s references, and provide some funny moments, all at the same time.

Finally, Prom Pact’s greatest merit is that friendship is the core of the story. The movie not only makes it clear that the two protagonists are best friends and nothing else – the type of male-female relationship we severely lack in cinema – but it also holds characters accountable and punishes them when they’re being crappy friends. Which is why it comes off a little strange that the movie establishes that Mandy and Ben have two other best friends, only to ignore their existence for most of the story.

After all that, it’s surprising that Prom Pact finds the time to comment on taxing the super rich, white privilege, and even saving the bees. Not that it delves too much on these themes, but touching on them is yet another indication that Gen Z stories don’t intend to ignore the world that’s happening around them. As far as high school comedies go, this is a home run.

Ultimately, Prom Pact is about not letting time pass you by. This doesn’t mean you can’t be pissed at what’s wrong with society and do what you can to try to change it, but you do have to find your people and allow yourself to have the best time you possibly can — especially during your teenage years before the world really tries to wear you down in adult life.

Prom Pact is the perfect choice of flick for you to watch when you’re in the mood for something light and fun. It has an excellent cast, the jokes come easily and never feel forced, and the story is a true celebration of friendship and how you should always do your best to not let your people down – and work hard to apologize if you do. John Hughes would be proud.

Rating: B+

Prom Pact is available now on Disney+.

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