One of the biggest 1980s movie tropes was characters lying about themselves and doing whatever was necessary to get the person of their dreams.
Well, Mandy’s not in an ’80s movie—though it is the theme of her school’s prom. And she’s not interested in some guy; she’s interested in Harvard.
For the past 18 years of her life, Mandy’s done everything she can to get into the famous Ivy League school. And except for the 94 in P.E. that kept her from becoming the school’s valedictorian, she’s been pretty successful. She was even named the “Best Student Economist in North America.”
But it isn’t enough. Mandy’s been waitlisted. And if she wants to be a student under Harvard’s prestigious Dr. Downs (winner of two Nobel Prizes for her work to stop global poverty), she’ll need a killer recommendation letter to tip the scale.
Now, Mandy could get one of her many teachers/supporters to write the letter. After all, who knows more about her passion and drive than the people with whom she’s spent eight hours a day, five days a week with for the past four years?
However, Mandy wants a bigger name. She wants a letter from Senator Lansing, a Harvard alum whose son, Graham, just so happens to attend Mandy’s school.
Of course, Mandy’s never spoken two words to Graham.
So if Mandy wants that letter, she’ll need to become her worst ’80s-themed nightmare to convince the popular guy she’s not a freak and get his dad to help put her into Harvard.
If you’ve ever seen an ’80s teen romcom, this probably won’t surprise you: Mandy becomes consumed with achieving her goal to the point of blowing off her best friend, Ben. Things gradually decline until the pair have a very public argument in the school parking lot. However, as can also be expected based on ’80s tropes, they eventually apologize and reconcile. And Mandy goes the extra mile to make things right since she recognizes that she was in the wrong and owes it to Ben.
Mandy and Ben have never been the type to drink, party or otherwise act crazy—which is awesome. However, they start to feel like maybe they’ve missed out on some important high school experiences. After some experimentation, they realize that the party scene still isn’t their thing, but they also realize that some of their classmates share that opinion.
Mandy has an admirable passion for saving the world. She throws herself into a cause to save an endangered species. And her hero has been internationally recognized for her work toward ending global poverty.
While tutoring Graham, Mandy realizes that Graham feels like a disappointment to his father (and that his dad often expects him to fail at academics). She encourages Graham not to live for his father’s approval. Eventually Mandy also tells Graham’s dad that he should be proud of his son since he’s a good person.
Friends show up for and support each other. They cheer each other up and help to ground each other. We learn that a boy coaches kids’ basketball in his spare time, teaching them about good sportsmanship. (This same guy later works for a non-profit coaching inner-city kids.) A few girls rightly state their self-worth.
[Spoiler Warning] After Mandy finally gets a recommendation letter from Graham’s dad, she decides not to use it. She feels guilty for using subterfuge to obtain the letter, and she apologizes to Graham for hurting him with her actions.
Someone says people treat Graham like a “god.” We hear mention of other imaginary “gods.”
Several couples kiss and make out. Mandy walks in on a same-sex couple kissing in a dark room. (We don’t see it, but they pop up from behind a couch when the door opens.) A teen boy grossly speculates which of his classmates he believes have had sex. Graham’s brothers talk about Graham’s past hookups. People talk about kissing.
Students at Mandy’s school are obsessed with “promposals.” We see several of these spectacles take place, including a few involving same-sex couples. We hear a female school counselor has a wife. A girl and her boyfriend fight in the background of several scenes after she accidentally makes her interest in another boy known.
Mandy describes a few ’80s movie plots that feature “scantily-clad” women, schemes to trick women into having sex with men and a brothel run by a teenage boy. A boy recreates a scene from the film Risky Business, dancing while wearing nothing but underwear and an unbuttoned shirt. We see a few boys without shirts. Several girls (including Mandy) wear revealing outfits. (Mandy tries to hide her phone in her cleavage at one point.) We spot bloomers (tight shorts worn under skirts to preserve modesty) when cheerleaders are performing stunts.
A boy says that if he had a time machine he would probably stop a few wars and genocides.
We hear “a–,” “p-ss” and a few uses of “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused more than a dozen times.
Mandy and Ben attend a party where most of the underage attendees are drinking. (One girl expresses disappointment with her classmates since she needs their help on a service project the following morning and worries they’ll be too hung over to bother showing.) Before these events, Ben had never been to a party with booze that had been drunk by anyone but an adult. Someone mentions keg stands. Adults drink wine and hard liquor at a fundraising event.
Mandy has several rude things to say about Graham and the other “Everests” (people she believes have peaked in high school). Besides the cruel nickname, she implies more than once that they are intellectually inept. She and Ben can be self-righteous, passing judgement on anyone who dares to enjoy their high school experience. And the only people they ever apologize to are the ones they bother getting to know.
Mandy takes a strong stance on feminism that can be a bit off-putting at times, even to her friends. She makes several bold claims about things she believes are caused by a patriarchal society. Mandy is scolded for skipping a school pep rally and taking things for donation from Lost and Found without permission.
Mandy’s parents can sometimes encourage bad behaviors. Her mom fondly remembers a senior prank wherein she and her friends filled their principal’s car with Cheetos—and she wishes Mandy would perform the same prank. Her dad sets an inappropriately late curfew when Mandy goes on a date. Her mom expresses disappointment that Mandy isn’t dating a popular guy, and later, Mandy questions her mother’s judgement in letting a 3rd grade Mandy watch the R-rated film Risky Business.
Most of Mandy and Ben’s classmates call Ben “No Nuts Plunkett” due to a nut allergy. Several people mock him for a time where he “blew up” after accidentally being exposed to nuts. Students record embarrassing moments to share on social media.
Mandy selfishly interrupts a boy’s counseling session, and the counselor allows it since she doesn’t like the boy. This same woman later fixes a school election at Mandy’s behest.
We hear a girl vomit offscreen after drinking heavily. People litter.
Mandy lies, hurting several people in the process. Mandy manipulates Graham for her own selfish desires and then defends it since she believes men manipulate women far more often.
Prom Pact is a Disney-fied version of your typical ’80s romcom, and intentionally so. There’s a spoiled jock who seems to have everything going for him. There’s a smart girl who hides her insecurities with self-righteousness. There’s even a makeover montage.
But while this film has some nice messages and is certainly cleaner than any of John Hughes’ films, Prom Pact still has a lot of issues.
Firstly, these kids talk a lot about hooking up. One particularly crude boy voices his opinions on which guys have had sex. And when you consider that kid is only a freshman in high school (so about 14 years old), it’s just gross.
Again, while cleaner than say, the R-rated Breakfast Club (which is referenced in this film), Prom Pact still has a fair bit of language, including multiple abuses of God’s name.
The film also has a lot of LGBT content. Throughout the movie, many boys participate in “promposals,” asking their same-sex significant others to prom. And several of these boys ask other boys to the dance. The school’s female guidance counselor is married to another woman. And there’s also a scene where Mandy interrupts two boys obviously making out on a couch.
Parts of Prom Pact were cute, reminding me of what teen romcoms used to be. But the segments mentioned above also reminded me of where Hollywood culture stands now. It overshadows that cuteness and makes this flick a hard pass for many families.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.