THE PRANK-Still Photo Credit Mathew Rudenberg - 2022
Photo Credit: Mathew Rudenberg

[#SXSW 2022 Review] Two Students Frame A Meanspirited Teacher For Murder in Dark Comedy THE PRANK

A harmless internet prank gets out of hand real fast in Maureen Bharoocha’s dark comedy The Prank. Celebrating its World Premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival The Prank is a coming-of-age tale, a high school hijinks flick, and a murder mystery all rolled up into one silly story. I think we all heard bizarre rumors about our teachers during our school days. They were usually harmless, and always beyond belief, but The Prank zeros in on one particular bit of manufactured gossip that catches on like wildfire and threatens to destroy the reputation of a (maybe) innocent teacher.

Directed by Maureen Bharoocha from a screenplay by Becca Flinn-White & Zak White, The Prank stars Connor Kalopsis (Outmatched), Ramona Young (Santa Clarita Diet), Rita Moreno (West Side Story), Keith David (The Thing), Kate Flannery (The Office), and Meredith Salenger (Werewolf In A Womens’ Prison).

 

“…a coming-of-age tale, a high school hijinks flick, and a murder mystery all rolled up into one silly story. “

 

Fun and funny, The Prank follows class kiss-ass Ben (Kalopsis) and his laid-back, tech-wiz best friend Tanner (Young) as they navigate the same issues troubling the high schoolers of America today. They stress out over SAT scores, nervously worry about their adult career paths, and color code their homework. Well, that’s actually all Ben. Tanner is more the “roll out of bed on 2 hours of sleep, crush an energy drink on the way to school, and sleep through first period” type. These two couldn’t be less alike but their shared talents come together for the prank of a lifetime.

When Ben’s sadistic physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler (Moreno), discovers someone cheating on the midterms, she offers the class an extreme ultimatum. Either the cheater steps forward to take ownership of their indiscretion or she’ll fail the entire class. Mrs. Wheeler has been terrorizing students for decades. The entire town is afraid of her, but no one messes with Tanner’s bestie. A case of energy drinks and 1 sleepless night of coding later, Tanner has unleashed a web of disinformation designed to frame the town’s most feared teacher for the death of a missing student.

 

“….Scooby-Doo for young adult true crime addicts.”

 

What begins as a harmless prank quickly spins out of control when Mrs. Wheeler is arrested by the local police and painted on the evening news a dangerous psychopath. Ben and Tanner have lost control of their narrative and because of Mrs. Wheeler’s earned reputation as the meanest lady in town, the court of public opinion is out for blood. Worried they might have condemned an innocent woman (and curious if this is all a happy accident) Ben and Tanner begin their own investigation to get to the bottom of who the mysterious Mrs. Wheeler really is.

I might just have award season on the brain but The Prank does pack a fun ensemble performance. Rita Moreno’s cold, intimidating Mrs Wheeler, Ramona Young’s too-cool-for-school laid-back outsider, and Kate Flannery’s crotchety lunch lady are just some of the caricatures that bring this comical coming-of-age story to life. There are beats in this story that could (maybe should) have been cut for time but the scene is always peppered with fun characters looking to goof on their surroundings.

 

“…a pleasantly humorous tale of taking things too far…

 

If Ben and Tanner made friends with a dog and invites a couple more friends to help them investigate Mrs. Wheeler this would have been a rock-solid reboot of Scooby-Doo for young adult true crime addicts. I would have been head over heels for this dark comedy if it dove a little deeper into its cartoonish exaggerations. As it stands, The Prank is a pleasantly humorous tale of taking things too far so anyone that ever wanted to get even with a spiteful teacher.

 

Maureen Bharoocha’s dark comedy The Prank celebrated it’s World Premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival. Click HERE to follow our coverage of the festival horror & genre programming and be sure to let us know which of your high school teachers was definitely a murderer over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.

Review: THE PRANK (2022)
TLDR
If Ben and Tanner made friends with a dog and invites a couple more friends to help them investigate Mrs. Wheeler this would have been a rock-solid reboot of Scooby-Doo for young adult true crime addicts. I would have been head over heels for this dark comedy if it dove a little deeper into its cartoonish exaggerations. As it stands, The Prank is a pleasantly humorous tale of taking things too far so anyone that ever wanted to get even with a spiteful teacher. 
Story
60
Performances
75
Gags
60
Pacing/Editing
60
63
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