ANYONE who looks back fondly on their school days and claims to have escaped without any emotional wounds is clearly deluded or fibbing.
Those formative years are a harsh lesson in survival, where standing out from the crowd in any way marks you as a target for bullies.
Across the Atlantic, High School Musical and Glee have both successfully peddled the myth that the most popular kids can walk hand in sweaty hand with the misfits in perfect, all-singing, all-dancing harmony.
Now director, Joe Nussbaum, dons the rose-tinted spectacles for this achingly predictable teen romance.
Screenwriter Katie Wech takes great pains not to offend anyone, so here is a vision of high school in which no one swears, has sex, falls pregnant, smokes or takes substances that could result in a stern talking to from the principal.
Nova Prescott (Aimee Teegarden) is a straight-A student and class president, who is destined for Georgetown on a full scholarship to the delight of her parents (Dean Norris and Faith Ford).
She has masterminded the school's forthcoming prom only for a fire to destroy all of the decorations.
So she has three weeks to make the decorations from scratch, aided by bad boy Jesse Richter (Thomas McDonell).
“If this prom isn't rebuilt to [Nova's] exact specifications, you won't graduate," the principal warns Jesse.
So the two students put their differences to one side to deliver a prom that everyone will remember, where Tyler (DeVaughn Nixon) and Jordan (Kylie Bunbury) are destined to be crowned King and Queen, and Justin (Jared Kusnitz) and Mei (Yin Chang) will celebrate their romance before attending the same university.
Meanwhile, music-loving best friends Lucas (Nolan Sotillo) and Corey (Cameron Monaghan) swoon over the former's science lab partner (Danielle Campbell) and classmate Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) tries to pluck up the courage to ask someone to be his date for the night.
Prom is a sugar-coated portrait of growing pains that makes sure every nice guy gets his girl, regardless of how unlikely the pairing, and every jerk gets his comeuppance.
Teegarden and McDonell are likeable although neither actor is stretched, their characters skipping from happy to happier with the minimum of upset.
Nussbaum's film is painfully earnest and almost laughably chaste.
When Jesse stares dewy-eyed at Nova and finally declares what is in his heart, she feels the urge to telegraph his impending pucker by squealing excitedly, “You’re about to kiss me!”
Sure enough, they smooch, both parties leaning forward so there is no contact below the waist.
How any one of these perky young things with their perfect hair and teeth will sustain a healthy relationship, is a worry.
STAR RATING: **