On March 30, 2023, Disney released a new original romantic comedy, Prom Pact, which was available for next-day streaming on Disney+. Since then, the movie has taken the internet by storm, for its nostalgic, romantic feel and use of classic tropes that make audiences fall head over heels time and time again. At the heart of the story, Mandy Yang (Peyton Elizabeth Lee), a senior in high school, gets waitlisted from her dream school, Harvard University. To get back on track with her future, she hatches a plan to get basketball star Graham Lansing’s (Blake Draper) father, who is a senator and Harvard-alum, to write a letter of recommendation that will ensure her acceptance.
Set against the backdrop of an ‘80s prom theme, the movie incorporates references from well-known films from that same time period, like Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club, and Back to the Future, through many promposal scenes. Julie Bowen, known for her role as Claire Dunphy on the hit sitcom Modern Family, served as an executive producer on the film. In an interview with Meet Cute, she discusses the planning stages of Prom Pact, offering her own insight into claims that the romantic comedy genre, as it used to be, is dead. Bowen talks about how chemistry on-screen is something that is real and tangible for the audience. A good romantic comedy is one that seeks authenticity, letting audiences feel like they are falling in love at the same time as the characters.
The baseline plot felt somewhat reminiscent of the early 2000s romantic comedy, A Walk to Remember. To achieve her Harvard goal, Mandy offers to tutor Graham for free in AP Psychology. Once he accepts, this unlikely pair, who had never spoken a word to each other, suddenly find themselves spending more time together and learning more about one another, outside of previously held assumptions. While Mandy and Graham get closer, her best friend, Ben Plunkett (Milo Manheim), begins to come second in her life. Now left alone to complete their usual Friday night plans of a bookstore, movie, and then breakfast, he coincidentally runs into the girl he has been in love with, LaToya Reynolds (Monique Green). With this time apart from Mandy, Ben can focus more on hanging out with LaToya, someone he never once thought he would have a chance to be.
As the prom and end of the film draw near, Mandy and Ben find themselves discovering a new world within the halls of their high school because of this viewers witness the long-term friendship crumble. However, in the predictable nature of romantic comedies, the two friends are able to reconcile and stay true to their pact to go to prom together. And primarily academic-oriented Mandy starts to loosen her grip on Harvard as she recognizes that she might be hurting the people she cares about, as she has consistently abandoned Ben for their Friday night traditions and reduces Graham to merely a connection to his father. Both Mandy and Ben, originally outsiders, now have crossed into the world of the so-called “Everests,” and end up adhering to a more traditional senior year experience.
Prom Pact demonstrates a distinct resurgence of the romantic comedy genre. While more modern in dialogue, and aimed at a younger audience, the on-screen chemistry of the characters has the power to move audiences of any age range. The movie is lighthearted, exploring themes of balancing academia and still living your life to the fullest without the fear of peaking in high school. While it does not outrageously change the benched genre, the movie felt more like an updated version of a John Hughes film, as it really leaned on tension and overdone yet lovable tropes.