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Reviews for The Prom Are in, and Folks Are MAD

Ryan Murphy's adaptation of the hit Broadway musical has inspired a lot of feelings from critics.

the prom

Ryan Murphy’s Netflix adaptation of Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Sklar’s award-winning, Tony-nominated Broadway musical The Prom premieres on Netflix on December 11. The reviews are … not great!

The film follows two Broadway stars (Streep and Corden) fresh off a flop and looking to rehab their careers. The opportunity arises when Indiana high school student Emma (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman) is banned from attending the prom with her girlfriend. The stars swarm the town and everyone becomes taken with their celebrity activism. The film features an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Kerry Washington, and Keegan-Michael Key, to name a few.

The pieces are all there: a hit Broadway musical, a high profile director, and a star-studded cast. But we’ve been down this road before. In fact, it was only last year when we were treated to this cinematic abomination:

Plenty of other Broadway musicals have been adapted into movies, and there are highs (Dreamgirls) and lows (The Producers) among them. But The Prom has inspired some truly hilarious responses from critics, many of whom took umbrage with the very straight James Corden playing the very gay role of Barry Glickman. Here are some of our favorites:

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair:

“Corden, who is straight, is so bad in The Prom — somehow both appalling and terminally bland—that it had me thinking maybe the hardliners were right along. Forget the whole case-by-case thing: No more straight actors playing gay men until the sins of The Prom are properly atoned for.”

Tim Robey, The Telegraph:

“In a cast full of talented queer actors in the younger parts, it’s a massive problem to have Corden in gayface front and centre, trying his utmost to own Barry’s tragic experience of leaving home as an unloved 16-year-old. His understanding expressions when Dee Dee offloads about her divorce are enough all by themselves to make you entertain dark thoughts of what might be on Amazon Prime. When he grabs Emma’s hand and whisks her to the mall for a makeover, it’s an insult the film doesn’t even consider, stereotyping the young lesbian as fashion-clueless and the gay man as a bustling Queer Eye nightmare who made this reviewer embarrassed to be batting for the same team. All in all, it’s Corden’s best performance since Cats.”

Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly:

The Prom is narratively sloppy, emotionally false, visually ugly, morally superior, and at least 15 minutes too long (a strong case can be made for 30). It has good intentions, though; or at least it wants to have good intentions. Obviously — and positively! — the film preaches tolerance and inclusion, both of which the world needs more of. What the world does not need more of are lines like, “There must be a way to rid this community and by extension the nation of this cancer of intolerance,” which are real words that poor Andrew Rannells was forced, I would guess at gunpoint, to utter on-camera.”

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:

“Corden, whose limited range becomes more apparent with every screen role, is torn between trying too hard and not hard enough as Barry. “I am as gay as a bucket of wigs!” he declares, in a role played with outrageously over-the-top swish by Brooks Ashmanskas on stage. Perhaps aware of the potential minefield for a straight actor playing a flaming gay stereotype, Corden channels the mannerisms without the joy.”

However, some critics enjoyed the film despite (or perhaps because) of its excesses. Though many reviews roasted the film, it currently holds a 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Jude Dry, IndieWire:

“It would be easy to write off “The Prom” feel-good brain candy or pop culture awash in a trendy social message. But that’s par for the course with Murphy’s work, and he delivers on expectations. More than that, “The Prom” has one quality that has become all too rare in entertainment: It’s unafraid to be fun.”

We’ll have to wait and see for ourselves whether The Prom is a delightful romp or an all-star nightmare soon to be forgotten. But maybe being terrible isn’t so bad. I mean, we are still talking about Cats, aren’t we?

(featured image: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.