Theater Camp (Rated PG-13)
By: Adam Freed
In a few short weeks, countless schools across America will ring the bells and raise the flags marking the beginning of a new school year, and the tragic end to the fantasy of summer. This anxiety-inducing reality leaves many moviegoers in search of one last lovable summer getaway. With a release perfectly timed, Theater Camp, written and directed by Molly Gordon and Nick Liberman may prove to be exactly what those seeking a final taste of summer are craving. Theater Camp tells the heartwarming and hilarious story of “AdirondACTS”a financially destitute theater camp that marks an annual pilgrimage for its loyal school age patrons. Posited as a faux documentary, the film bathes in the tonal notes of Best in Show (2000) meets School of Rock (2003). Countless moments away at camp are laugh aloud funny, part homage to the stage community, part self deprecating blowtorch to its eccentricity. The movie dances atop the line of being a little too insider for broad audiences but is sure to delight denizens of broadway.
AdirondACTS has always found a way to stay financially afloat, mostly due to the staff who sacrifice their own potential careers in favor of enriching the lives of campers. This lovable sacrifice is painted with care in the performances of Ben Platt as Amos and writer-director Molly Gordon’s Rebecca-Diane. The precarious financial edge on which the camp balances topples when AdironACTS’ heartbeat and matriarch Joan (Amy Sedaris near perfection), is replaced by her son Troy, a self absorbed video blogger who knows or cares nothing for the camp to which his mother gave life. Although this may sound like the plot of a telenovela, it proves to be an economic tool to illustrate the chasm between those who have enjoyed being part of a theater community and others who would scoff at the idea. Although Troy gradually and predictably allows the theatrical experiences to warm his soul, he never fully reaches dynamism as he fails to earn redemption for his many misgivings.
Where Theater Camp strikes gold is in the casting and characterization of a supporting ensemble, that seem to be fond memories of realistic and formative times best spent surrounded by those capable of sharing an existence without judgment or preconception. This community of lovably impassioned misfits gain strength and confidence through their bonds and have no need for the opinions or judgements from outsiders. Despite being a comedic incendiary device, Theater Camp also actively plays the role of bridge to outsiders who may never take to the stage, but will feel a welling respect overcome them. The warm memorable soul of Theater Camp is that it illustrates the power of a basic human need that many people never achieve even into adulthood, a place to belong.
TARGET SCORE - 7/10 A fun, funny and heartfelt emotionally connective film.