‘Prom Pact’ Targets Teens, With Lots of ‘80s References For Their Parents

Peyton Elizabeth Lee in Disney Channel's 'Prom Pact'
Peyton Elizabeth Lee as Mandy in ‘Prom Pact.’ (Image credit: Disney/Kailey Schwerman)

Prom Pact, a movie about all the drama surrounding the prom, debuts on Disney Channel March 30 and Disney Plus March 31. Mandy and Ben are best friends and outsiders at their high school. It’s their senior year, and they are surrounded by over-the-top, ‘80s-themed “promposals.” 

Mandy has bigger issues on her mind than the prom — such as getting into Harvard. With that in mind, she begins tutoring the in-crowd jock guy Graham, whose father is a powerful senator and a Harvard alum. Over time, Mandy realizes Graham is a bit more than the Homecoming King stereotype. 

Anya Adams directs Prom Pact and Julie Bowen, who played Claire in Modern Family, executive produces with partner Rachael Field, alongside Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan. 

Adams said the movie is about “the allure of the prom and the spectacle of it, and then, once you get there, what it really is.” It’s also about high school friendships, and how friends get one another through challenging times. 

Adams quipped that the Disney execs “really liked my promposal” when she presented her vision for the movie. Bowen mentioned how Adams’ presentation involved a “really heartwarming” story about her own prom, where Adams wrote a boy she liked a long, heartfelt letter asking him to go. 

Bowen went to a tiny boarding school that didn’t offer students a prom. “This movie is my prom,” she said. 

Peyton Elizabeth Lee plays Mandy and Milo Manheim portrays Ben. Margaret Cho, Wendi McLenon-Covey, Blake Draper and Monique Green are also in the cast.  

Adams described Mandy as “a young, independent woman who knows what she wants. Because she’s so driven, she has some blind spots which she learns about in this movie and really does some growing.”

Bowen added: “My heart is in Mandy. I was definitely focused on college and academics and not on fun at all in high school. This is wish fulfillment for me, getting to see somebody break out of preconceived notions and live a little.”

Adams and Bowen rave about Peyton Elizabeth Lee, whose credits include the title roles in Andi Mack and Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. “She’s an incredible actor, so intuitive, and really does her homework to build up the character’s backstory,” Adams said. “She comes to the set prepared not only for the dialogue that’s been written, but all the essence and trappings of who Mandy is, good and bad.”

She shares about Lee turning up to try on her outfit for a graduation scene at the end of the movie. Looking at scads of dresses, she told the producers she thought Mandy would wear a pants suit. “She’s so connected to who Mandy is,” added Adams. 

They Love the ’80s

Set in Seattle and shot in Vancouver, Prom Pact nods to ‘80s movies such as The Breakfast Club, Ghostbusters and Say Anything, often in the shape of elaborate promposals by students obsessed with that era. Bowen suspects the promposal trend came to be when the iPhone was hatched, which encouraged students to make them full-on productions, suitable for sharing. “I think that came along with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007,” Bowen said. 

Asked about influences on the project, Adams said “anything John Hughes.” His movies include The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Bowen acknowledged that some aspects of the ‘80s movies don’t hold up today, whether it’s female characters without much agency or the lack of minority characters. “Those movies are really problematic,” she said, “but they’re also really fun.”

Adams and Bowen hope Prom Pact is a movie that kids and parents will watch together, with the parents appreciating the ‘80s references. One Mandy and Ben scene in a diner may call to mind Sixteen Candles, where Samantha and Jake are set to kiss over a birthday cake. “I  thought moments like that were really beautiful,” Bowen said. “They may be lost, in a good way, on a first-time viewer, but the parents who are watching along, they might go, ‘doesn’t that feel like …’ ” ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.