‘Prom Pact’ encourages teens to own up to mistakes

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Disney
This is a promotional image for the Disney original film Prom Pact, starring Milo Manheim, Peyton Elizabeth Lee and Blake Draper. It is available to stream on Disney+.

By Lindsay Steele
Now Streaming Column
 
‘Prom Pact’ (Disney)

Genre: Teen, romantic comedy, coming of age
Streaming service: Disney+
Rating: TV-14 (language, suggestive dialogue)

Summary: High school senior Mandy Yang (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) has one goal: to get into Harvard. When she is waitlisted, she and her best friend Ben (Milo Manheim) concoct a plan: get cozy with basketball star Graham Lan­sing, (Blake Draper) whose Harvard-alum senator dad could write the perfect letter of recommendation. Will it work? Will Mandy and Ben’s friendship stay intact in the face of big changes? Lastly, will their pact to go to prom together hold strong?

Synopsis: Popular star athlete Graham Lansing appears to be everything his senior classmate, Mandy Yang, hates. After they get to know each other, he asks, “Did you think I was just a dumb jock before all this?” “Yes,” she replies.

Prom Pact, at its core, is a movie about subverting expectations. Viewers, like the characters, may be surprised at what lies beneath the surface.

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The film’s title implies that it will follow in the footsteps of prom-centric high school films like “Pretty in Pink” and “She’s All That.” While Prom Pact does pay homage to those films, the tropes get makeovers. Notably, there is no stereotypical “bully” for the main characters to engage in battle. Instead, the main characters battle with the consequences of their shortcomings and mistakes.

Mandy is driven, snarky and somewhat judgmental. She looks down on people who enjoy the high school experience, perhaps as a way to feel better about her decision to focus solely on getting into her dream college. She refers to Graham as an “Everest” who is likely to peak in high school and spend the rest of his life bragging about how great it was. She strikes up a friendship with him only because it is a means to an end — she’s been waitlisted at Harvard and his father is an influential alumnus. Her opinion of Graham changes once they have had a chance to connect.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a teen movie without some drama! Relationships are built on trust and when Graham discovers Mandy’s initial motivations, he understandably feels betrayed. Mandy will have to grow as a person and take responsibility for her actions if she wants a happy ending.

Her best friend, Ben, also has some growing up to do. A downfall of many teen films is that the best friend character exists only to assist the main character in their coming-of-age journey. Yet, Ben is a fully formed character with strengths and weaknesses. He is insecure, yet capable of being assertive when he needs to be. He is awkward, yet charming. He is handsome, yet he and Mandy have no romantic feelings for each other. He likes his comfortable routine but actively seeks ways to shake things up. When things get shaken up beyond his comfort level,  even for good reason, he isn’t sure how to handle it. He, too, must make amends and grow if he wants a happy ending.

While the attention to Mandy and Ben’s shortcomings is refreshing, it does lead to the characters seeming unlikable at times. Still, I appreciate that Prom Pact promotes the importance of taking responsibility for your mistakes and making amends. The film also shows viewers that you shouldn’t make hasty judgments or alienate people. Make an effort to connect and find common ground — that’s an important lesson for teens and adults alike.

Discussion questions:

Mandy befriended Graham under false pretenses. Why is it important to be honest about your intentions?

Do you recall a time in which you became friends with someone you initially disliked? What caused you to change your mind?

Can you recall a time in which you were the villain in your own story?

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at steele@davenportdiocese.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)


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