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The Prom First Reviews: We're All Just Living in Meryl Streep's World

Critics say Ryan Murphy's adaptation of the Broadway hit is a feel-good treat for musical fans with a scene-stealing Meryl Streep and a bright young newcomer in Jo Ellen Pellman.

by | December 1, 2020 | Comments

It’s time for a new hit movie musical, and Netflix hopes The Prom will rise to the occasion. Fortunately for them, if the first reviews are any indication, Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of the Broadway show will fit the bill and delight subscribers of all ages with its mix of old-school razzle-dazzle and progressive subject matter.

The Prom, which arrives on the streaming service December 11, stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Andrew Rannells as egocentric showbiz types from NYC who descend upon a conservative Midwest American town to help a teen (Jo Ellen Pellman) whose sexual orientation has caused her school to cancel the titular dance. For both its message of tolerance and its lively spectacle, it seems like it might just be the movie of the year.

Here’s what critics are saying about The Prom:


Should Ryan Murphy fans flock to the movie?

It’s a perfect combination of filmmaker and material.
– Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

This film is well inside Ryan Murphy’s Glee wheelhouse.
– Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International

Murphy is back in Glee territory here, for better or worse.
– David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Ryan Murphy again finds the underdog vibe of Glee that captured pop culture’s imagination.
– Brian Truitt, USA Today

The Prom demonstrates that Murphy has matured as a filmmaker since his Glee days.
– Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

The Prom is the best of what Murphy can offer Hollywood — a taste of the past with its eyes on the future.
– Jude Dry, IndieWire


Ryan Murphy and the cast of The Prom
(Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

Is it a worthy adaptation of the musical?

[Murphy’s] real achievement is making The Prom feel like a film rather than a captured-on-camera stage production, one that still retains the let’s-put-on-a-show energy of live theater.
Thom Geier, The Wrap

[The] stage vision translates surprisingly well to the screen thanks to the movie’s visual flair.
Jude Dry, IndieWire


But what if you don’t care for musicals?

It probably goes without saying, but anybody with an aversion to musicals or Murphy’s previous work, such as Glee, should stay well clear of The Prom.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Regrettably, much of the film’s humor comes in the form of musical theater in-jokes.
Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly

In recent years, there’s been a spate of musicals that you’ll “enjoy even if you don’t like musicals”… The Prom is no such musical.
Ben Travis, Empire Magazine

Ryan Murphy offers a fun and lightweight musical that will certainly not win over the sort of people who detest the genre but will likely entertain those who do.
Lewis Knight, Daily Mirror

The Prom isn’t quite as ubiquitous as, say, Cats or Les Miserables, and thus Murphy’s film will feel refreshing for a streaming audience often itching to watch Netflix’s next big thing.
Brian Truitt, USA Today


Meryl Streep and James Corden in The Prom
(Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

And what about fans of old-school musicals?

Aside from its impassioned overtures for LGBTQ+ rights, The Prom has all the makings of a classic Hollywood musical.
Jude Dry, IndieWire

If The Prom is a proudly liberated musical, it’s also one that’s so defiantly square, with a vibe that reaches back to the incandescently wholesome musicals of the studio system.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

It will frustrate audiences who prefer their musicals with subtlety and nuance.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report


How are the songs?

The heartrending songs Pellman and [Ariana] DeBose deliver are sweet and, more importantly, powerfully poignant.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Catchy in the moment, even if they seldom linger long in the head.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

The songs truly are terrible.
Jesse Hassenger, AV Club


The Prom
(Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

How is Meryl Streep?

Streep is transcendent… a genuine campy hoot.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Streep is consistently hilarious.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Streep absolutely shines in her most endearing role in years.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report

Meryl Streep is having the most fun in years as she revels in her character’s awfulness.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

As fantastic as every cast member is — and there isn’t a dud in the bunch — it’s still Streep’s show.
Jude Dry, IndieWire


And James Corden?

I don’t think he has ever been better.
Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

He burrows so deeply into the character’s quibbling insouciance that he gives him a three-dimensional essence. He’s soulfully funny and touching.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Corden’s performance feels the most like a caricature and comes across as especially calculated, with some moments landing with comedic heft but most of them not.
Lewis Knight, Daily Mirror

It’s a flat performance without much heart… This is a role that cries out for Nathan Lane.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Murphy made a major error in the casting of James Corden as the musical’s gay male lead character… a flaw that undoes a lot of the good work elsewhere. Corden camp[s] it up to the point of being regressive and offensive… His performance comes across as dated and strikes a sour note.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy


Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana Debose in The Prom
(Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

And what about their young castmates?

I would certainly be remiss if I did not mention newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman who absolutely steals every scene that she is in.
Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

[Pelllman is] “one of the discoveries of the year.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Pellman makes an assured debut. Yet it’s DeBose who turns in a star-making performance.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Pellman holds her own throughout, plus she and DeBose… form a dynamic pairing essential to the film’s aspirational themes.
Brian Truitt, USA Today


Does Pellman’s Emma get enough screen time?

The film really sparkles when [Pellman and DeBose] are in the spotlight. If only the focus was on them more often.
Emily Maskell, Little White Lies

Where’s Emma in all of this?… The Prom doesn’t seem especially interested in accepting Emma as an individual person.
Jesse Hassenger, AV Club

This, though, is Emma’s story, and she gets lost in the mix…the character feels thin.
Ben Travis, Empire Magazine

It’s a shame the film doesn’t spend more time with Emma as a character as this is truly her story, even if sometimes the Broadway divas are more fun.
Lewis Knight, Daily Mirror

The movie belongs not to the people with the painful problem, who actually overcome something difficult, but the quartet of invaders… The film has way too much in common with the egomaniacs at its center.
Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly


The Prom
(Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

Does it convey its message convincingly?

The Prom is very much a movie about “the two Americas,” and part of its luster is that it portrays the conservative Midwestern one with dignity, even as it attacks the impulses of bigotry.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin’s script goes as soft as cafeteria Jell-O when it comes to the Indiana crowd.
Thom Geier, The Wrap

Its core message of inclusivity and tolerance is more than welcome, even if it’s more fun to watch the self-absorbed Broadway stars learn their lessons than the PTA come to heel.
Fionnuala Halligan, Screen International

The Prom is better at satirically skewering Broadway than it is at seriously skewering homophobia, which feels like a missed opportunity.
Ben Travis, Empire Magazine


Should you keep the tissues handy?

There won’t be a dry eye in the house come the finale.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

I’ve watched the film twice already, and I teared up both times.
Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

The tear-jerking climax is worth the wait, despite the choppy waters along the way.
Lewis Knight, Daily Mirror


The Prom
(Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix)

Is The Prom the perfect way to end 2020?

After the year we’ve all had, Netflix’s glorious musical comedy The Prom couldn’t have come at a better time.
Brian Truitt, USA Today

This is a feel great musical extravaganza that is exactly what the world needs in 2020.
Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment

The Prom is everything you need right now.
Jude Dry, IndieWire

[It’s] an eye-poppingly vibrant finale to a grim year.
Ben Travis, Empire Magazine


The Prom premieres on Netflix on Friday, December 11, 2020.

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