The Prank review – silver screen legend Rita Moreno graces twisty high school comedy

Estimated read time 2 min read

Nerdy swot Ben (Connor Kalopsis) and dropout-in-the-making Tanner (Ramona Young) are high school seniors and best friends. That seems mildly implausible given their wildly different life goals: he wants to get into the same top university his recently deceased father attended, while Tanner just wants to chill and play games until climate change kills everyone off. But their friendship is the least implausible component in this dark comedy which has fun piling twists and unlikely turns of events on top of one another until the whole Jenga pile of silliness topples over in the last act.

In the end, it’s not quite as shocking, funny or inventive as it thinks it is, but the two young actors have good comic chemistry together and it’s a kick seeing legendary actor Rita Moreno ham it up as the kids’ antagonist, physics teacher Mrs Wheeler. The running joke is that everyone in the town was taught by termagant Mrs Wheeler back in the day and still bear the psychological scars; amusingly, no one seems to have ever moved away. As well as being prone to making cruel remarks and being a harsh grader, Wheeler does stuff like fail her whole Advance Placement Physics class because one person cheated on the mid-term test.

Ben, in his nebbishy way, is outraged because the punishment will sabotage his chances of getting into college, so Tanner decides to help him out by posting on the internet that Mrs Wheeler is responsible for the death of a student who has been missing for a couple of years. No sooner has she posted the suggestion anonymously online than it is everywhere and everyone is reacting with evil glee to see Wheeler brought low. The episode also demonstrates that online behaviour in films such as this, Dear Evan Hansen and the recent remake of Mean Girls works entirely differently than it does in the real world where nothing goes that viral unless it involves a Korean pop group. Moreno was 90 when this film was shot two years ago, but looks as spry as a chorus girl and is clearly having a blast playing the bad guy for a change. There are a couple of sly zingers every so often but it’s just a shame the material isn’t a bit sharper.


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