Camp

"Weak"

Camp Review


If movies were the only thing we had to go on, nobody in their right mind would go to a summer camp. You either wind up with an axe in your back or spend two weeks with dim-witted counselors wearing ill-fitting shorts who Just Don't Understand Kids. There's oppressive heat, poison ivy, and lots of god-awful dialogue. So it's to Todd Graff's credit that he tried to make a summer-camp movie that gleefully tries to tweak the genre's conventions. Camp refers to its subject - a summer camp for teenaged would-be Broadway stars - as well as to the inherent silliness (i.e. campiness) of the summer-camp genre. In Camp, characters pointedly don't do the things they usually do in movies. But it's so over-earnest in its approach that the results aren't much fun.

Camp's story centers on three young performers attending Camp Ovation: The sincere but unconfident Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), the cross-dressing Michael (Robin De Jesus) whose homosexuality ires his parents, and the charming yet arrogant hunk Vlad (Daniel Letterle). Vlad has a winning smile and a straight-boy bravado that everybody else at Camp Ovation lacks, which makes him the subject of a half-dozen crushes. But there's work to be done: The assembled kids have to put on a new production every two weeks, managed by Bert (Don Dixon), a washed-out alcoholic whose stage successes are years behind him.

A lesser movie would have a grandiose AA conversion for Bert, a loving family reconciliation for Michael's family, and a lot of "impaler" jokes about Vlad. Still, Camp is boilerplate filmmaking, stuffed with familiar lessons about friendship and chasing your dreams (a cameo from Stephen Sondheim wraps up matters in a tidy bow). The attempts at humor generally fail to hit their marks. You can only get so much comic mileage out of an overweight girl with her jaw wired shut, or dressing up black children like Hasidic Jews. In the worst case, one girl takes some ghoulish revenge on her bullying roommate by spiking her drink with Woolite. I'm unwilling to test this myself, but it's my guess swigging such a concoction leads not to some entertainingly-timed puking, but a rush to the ER, stomach pumping, and the closure of Camp Ovation.

All of this wouldn't matter so much if the acting weren't so mediocre. Director Graff proudly states in the production notes that he wanted untrained actors in Camp for the sake of authenticity. This practice needs to stop. There's nothing charming about watching young actors at sea in their roles; indeed, you feel a little sorry for them, the way you do flipping through calendars where cats have been dressed up like society matrons and sea captains. When Bert drunkenly berates the batch for harboring hopeless dreams and wasting their time on performing, it's supposed to underscore how angry and damaged Bert is; instead, you're pondering whether the man has a point.

Yet many of Camp's flaws are mooted during the musical numbers, which are all marvelously performed - it's the one aspect of the film that Graff and his cast truly throw their hearts into. Taking scenes from Dreamgirls and Promises, Promises, the movie catches some fire and fun, and it shows that the kids in Camp are genuine talents. Musicals are inherently campy: They feature adults acting like children singing about adult things, so teenagers are perfect for such roles. So it's ironic that they're so unconvincing when they have to act like teenagers, like themselves. But not ironic in a freewheeling, campy sort of way. Just ironic in how disappointing it is.

Extras on this flamboyant DVD include a live cast performance, making-of footage, and a collection of deleted scenes.

Camping is fun! Who's ready for s'mores?



Camp

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th September 2003

Box Office USA: $1.6M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 65 Rotten: 38

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Tammi, Gianna Gomez as Maribel, as Eli, Meredith Thomas as Bonnie, Matthew Jacob Wayne as Redford, Ariana Smythe as Julie, Asante Jones as Samuel, Michael Mattera as Ken, as John, Elissa Kapneck as Lacee, Elizabeth Tripp as Bella, Conrad Bluth as Bryce, Taylar Hollomon as Gabrielle, Casey Leet as Bridget, Michael Otis as Pete

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.