Like "Glee," the monosyllabic TV phenom whose action it so dearly covets, Disney's "Prom" sells its target audience on the idea that we can all get along, despite the raging, Balkanized stereotypes — broken down into the usual categories of "athletes," "misfits," "drama queens" and the like — that have sold this stuff since John Hughes was in short pants.
Set in Michigan but shot around Los Angeles, director Joe Nussbaum's movie comes from promising first-time screenwriter Katie Wech. Her work has a nice spirit; "Prom" may be the same old thing, and squeaky-clean to the point of mild-to-moderate aggravation, but it's not pushy.
Wech has the egalitarian good sense to create an ensemble piece for a baker's dozen of interacting characters, rather than an aggressive showcase for the female protagonist, a Type A Georgetown University-bound senior played by Aimee Teegarden of "Friday Night Lights."
Teegarden's appealing character, Nova, is a supernova in terms of determination and organizational skills. When her prom committee efforts go up in smoke (a fire destroys the decorations), it looks like curtains for the big event. But with the initially reluctant help of bad-boy Jesse (Thomas McDonell) she discovers that you can't judge books by their covers and that love is a funny thing.
There's someone for everyone in "Prom." A music-buff sophomore (Nolan Sotillo) pines for classmate Simone (Danielle Campbell), but she and the presumptive hotshot prom king (De'Vaughn Nixon) used to have sort of a PG-rated thing going on, which means the prom king's girlfriend (Kylie Bunbury) needs to wise up to her man, and fast.
The cast's newcomers easily mix with the hardened alums of Disney and Nickelodeon TV series. Screen newbie Joe Adler brings some welcome wit to the role of Rolo, the dude who would be shown smoking marijuana if "Prom" were interested in crushing realism.
One of these days a commercial American comedy will dare to enter the halls of high school without arranging everyone by clique or codified archetype. But who knows where or when?