Reel Dad: 'The Prom' starring Meryl Streep, James Corden and Kerry Washington radiates joy

If ever we need a musical at the movies, this 2020 holiday is the time. And “The Prom” fits the bill.

While this joyful adaptation of the 2018 Broadway show may slow when the singing and dancing stop, the enthusiasm of its all-star cast easily carries the film. Plus, the movie’s positive message of inclusion is welcome to hear after a year filled with division. This is a feel-good movie that, after the challenges we have experienced, sure does feel good.

The story first takes us to the heartland of America, a small town in Indiana, where a young lady wants to take another young lady to the high school prom. But that's a bit too progressive for this community, so the PTA decides to cancel the event. Meanwhile, on Broadway, an aging diva finds herself without a job when her musical version of the Eleanor Roosevelt story flops on stage. And, in an effort to secure some positive publicity, the star (and her entourage) head to Indiana to intervene in the community dispute over the prom.

If this story doesn’t sound like a natural framework for a musical, no worries, the plot prompts people to sing and dance every few minutes. From the energetic opening on the streets of Manhattan to quiet, introspective numbers later in the show, the music and lyrics touch the heart and warm the soul as they express how people want to connect without judgment from others. As choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, the production numbers radiate the joy we watch musicals to experience; as captured on film by director Ryan Murphy, the film is a visual feast that projects the inherent optimism of the characters.

Of course, the cast is sublime. Any chance to see Meryl Streep sing and dance with abandon is a delight, and the role of a self-obsessed Broadway star gives the actress countless opportunities to poke fun at her own super star presence. Streep makes the most of every moment on screen, always reminding us that she is putting on a show that also has something to say. James Corden hits the right notes as her co-star from Broadway (yes, as FDR) who travels to Indiana to confront his own issues. As he demonstrated in “Into the Woods” in 2014, the talk show host knows how to sell a musical number. While Nicole Kidman has less to do as a chorus line singer and dancer, with minimal musical moments, Jo Ellen Pellman brings the heart of the piece to light as the young lady whose bravery gives the story its meanings. Keegan-Michael Key and Kerry Washington also star in the film.

What makes “The Prom” so welcome, especially now, is its belief that people can bring out the best in each other and, no matter what may divide, we can find reasons to unite. We need this message now after a year filled with questions. While it may be coincidence that “The Prom” came out at this particular time, the movies couldn’t offer a more ideal escape from the challenges we face as we embrace the hopes we share. Together.

“The Prom” runs 2 hours, 10 minutes, is rated PG-13 for “thematic elements, some suggestive/sexual references and language” and will be available on Netflix starting Dec. 11.

Summary: The Prom

Content: High. This energetic adaptation of the Broadway musical offers a stylized and entertaining look at how people cope with the challenges of inclusion.

Entertainment: High. Meryl Streep and James Corden engage the audience in a story of our potential to make the world a more inclusive place.

Message: High. Through delightful musical sequences, Streep, Corden and the rest of the cast share the joy of song and dance.

Relevance: Medium. Anyone who loves Broadway, and misses live musicals, will find this fun entertainment to experience.

Opportunity for Dialogue: High. For movie and Broadway lovers, there will be a lot to discuss about our world today.