‘Prom Dates’ Proves the Teen-Girl Raunchy Sex Comedy Is Here to Stay, Thank God

Disney / Brett Roedel
Disney / Brett Roedel

High-school sex comedies were once the exclusive realm of the boys. In their heyday, the genre was dominated by the Superbads, the Napoleon Dynamites, the American Pies—raunchy, goofy movies about the absurdity of being a teenager, having all this energy and nowhere to put it. Then something shifted, and we started delving deeper into the other end of the spectrum, tuning in to find out what a girl actually wants and immortalizing it in absurdist, hilarious movies like Booksmart, Blockers, and Bottoms. Hulu’s new comedy Prom Dates is a sibling of these, a hysterically funny odyssey through the highs and lows of a teen best friendship that pokes and prods at a familiar formula.

Graduating seniors Jess (Ginny & Georgia’s Antonia Gentry) and Hannah (High School Musical: The Musical: The SeriesJulia Lester) made a blood pact (complete with fainting) at 13 to have the best prom ever at the end of high school. Now that the two of them are older, wiser, with devoted boyfriends, everything seems to be going according to plan. Except, the day before their senior prom, Jess and Hannah dump their partners—Jess because he cheated on her, and Hannah because she’s gay—and find themselves suddenly single, with only one desperate night to find dates to the big dance.

It’s a problem, but not a huge disaster for the two pals, whose best-friend energy (frenergy?) is palpable from minute one. Gentry and Lester are whip-smart and knife-sharp in their expert delivery of every line, with the kind of runaway back-and-forth patter you usually only see between two people who have known each other their whole lives. They ping-pong off each other in every scene, with none of the dead space in other comedy films that feel the need to let their jokes breathe. The pair and their equally brilliant supporting cast delight in writer D.J. Mausner’s dialogue, casually shooting off the funniest thing you’ve ever heard before immediately launching into the next funniest. They barely even need the anchoring presence of comedy veterans John Michael Higgins, who plays the school’s principal, and Chelsea Handler, who plays Hannah’s boyfriend’s overbearing mother obsessed with teaching her dog how to use talk buttons.

A photo including Julia Lester, Kenny Ridwan in the film Prom Dates

Julia Lester, Kenny Ridwan

Disney / Brett Roedel

The movie and its director, Kim O. Nguyen (Never Have I Ever), take pains to follow each girl equally, though Hannah’s fast-paced gay awakening and coming out understandably take over much of the plot. Her storyline, wherein she’s finally free to flirt with girls (and to figure out how exactly one flirts with girls), feels richer at times than Jess’s more John Hughes-influenced gotta-find-a-boyfriend plot, but the chemistry between the two leads is enough to dispel the notion that the film is favoring one character over the other.

There’s conflict between the friends, but it feels natural instead of being forced into the movie to add momentum. This being a comedy of a certain type, you basically know how things will turn out. It sticks to a certain formula, kind of like an edgier Disney Channel Original Movie whose moral lesson is to be yourself, as aggressively as possible. That predictability is helped by the fact that the leads are somewhat unpredictable: You’ve seen this story before, but not this version. The absurdity is almost cartoonish, with the same understanding of physicality that makes animation funny.

A photo including Julia Lester in the film Prom Dates

Julia Lester

Disney / Brett Roedel

The movie sprinkles in repeated in-jokes—dog talking buttons with ominous words, a character who’s so tall her head never fits in the frame—that help ground the movie when its plotting almost gets out of hand. The notion that one MUST have a DATE to prom is a classic structure, and Prom Dates feels like an homage to a beloved genre that feels right at home in the present.

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