Rob Reviews "Theater Camp"
Summer camp is something that I am starting to worry about. With schools going to year-round classes, shortening breaks, and even shortening weeks in some cases, summer break is getting shorter and shorter, giving camps less time to run and maintain their businesses. I am a HUGE proponent of camps; they have done a lot for me both as a camper and a staff member on a number of fronts. That being said, Theater Camp could wind up a time capsule of a film, but I am glad it exists.
An expanded version of a 2020 short film, things at Camp Adirond Acts (say it again to get what is going on here) get thrown into a frenzy when tragedy befalls one of their own. Under the “leadership” of the founder’s son in Troy (Jimmy Tatro), the staff and campers who look forward to their three-week adventure each year must do everything they can to keep the camp from losing everything to a rival camp next door.
Molly Gordon (who also is credited as a co-writer and one of the stars) co-directs here with Nick Liberman (a LOT of music video work with him) in what seems like a mash-up of a summer comedy with a mockumentary without the interview segments. The only way that I can really describe Theater Camp is silly fun with a good amount of heart. There are a number of times that I laughed out loud during a number of outrageous moments in the best of ways. As much as this film will be seen as parody, those that are familiar with sleepaway camps and/or performance art will find more than just a thread of realism in the portrayals of staff that are doing everything they can to hold on to the fairytale existence of being away from the city life and the campers that just want to spend some time amongst their “people” without the judgement that we all know they deal with the other eleven months and change of the year as they simply look for who they are and want to be. At no point did I feel like there was any intention of poking fun at the characters themselves, which actually makes the film itself work that much more.
Pitch Perfect alum Ben Platt does a great job as well as the spiritual other half and collaborating partner to Gordon’s Rebecca-Diane, and their chemistry is both fun and palpable alongside Noah Galvin as the tech guru Glenn who may have more to offer than anyone realizes. Adding even more chaos to what they are already dealing with is Ay Edebiri as Janet, a new addition to the staff who weasels her way in there to get a gig but asks the “outsider” questions that none of the veteran staff really wants to deal with. If there is any downside to this film, it is that I wish these moments were explored more in order for the audience to truly understand what life is like for the counselors in those moments where the campers are nowhere near them, enabling them to be their true selves to each other.
Given that this is truly an independent-type film, you may not be able to get to it in a theater near you, but even if you cannot Theater Camp is one to find wherever and whenever you can. For those that have experienced these types of things, it’s a great reminder of a time long gone that we can hope continues for generations to come. For those of you who have not, perhaps this will plant a seed to make plans to do so for yourself (they do have those) or your kids in summers to come.