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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.67%
Just Average: 3.33%
Pretty Crappy: 1.67%
Sucks: 20%

3 reviews, 42 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Theater nerds, unite! Your -- OK, our -- movie has arrived."
4 stars

It's the start of Camp Ovation, an upstate New York summer camp for theater students. A mousy girl approaches the prima donna and says hello. "Is this your first year at Camp Ovation?" the prima donna asks haughtily. "No," is the reply. "I was here last year. Remember, we were in ''Night Mother' together?"

If you're enough of a theater geek to know why that's funny -- "'Night Mother" only has two characters, so it would be pretty impressive not to remember who your co-star was -- then "Camp" is the film for you. Written and directed by actor Todd Graff (this is his first time behind the camera), it's a "Fame"-like celebration of theater geekdom, being different and the works of Stephen Sondheim.

I don't know how to separate myself from this film. I am a theater geek; these are my people. The fact that the kids are singing Sondheim numbers on the bus to camp -- and that it's not even Sondheim everyone knows, like "Send in the Clowns" or something from "West Side Story" -- makes me giddy. The fact that Sondheim's photo is visible on someone's nightstand several times before it is identified in the story -- and that I recognized it the moment it turned up -- makes me laugh. The mousy girl who turns backstabber, poisons the prima donna and then takes over her role to sing "The Ladies Who Lunch" -- that's gold, man.

And so it is grudgingly that I acknowledge the film's many flaws -- so grudgingly, in fact, that I'm not going to do it yet. First we will address the story.

Our hero, who acts like a bastard a lot of the time, but a really likable bastard, is Vlad (Daniel Letterle), a handsome guitar player who wants to improve his acting skills. At a camp of outcasts and misfits, he stands out because he isn't one. Back in the real world, everyone assumes, he's pretty normal. He's not gay, like several of the boys are, and he managed to go to his junior prom with someone who was not a relative.

He develops a friendship with Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), who is average and nice, much to the chagrin of prima donna Jill (Alana Allen), a tramp in 15-year-old's clothing. Expect sabotage and bitchery.

Meanwhile, there is Michael (Robin De Jesus), who got beaten up when he showed up at his prom in drag and who has a major crush on Vlad. He is estranged from his parents -- his dad thinks he kind of got what he deserved, prom-wise -- and doesn't count on them showing up to see him perform this summer.

Meanwhile, there is cynical Bert Handley (Don Dixon), who wrote one big hit musical a dozen years ago that all the kids have been in at some point. Then he never wrote again, and now he drinks a lot and is the main instructor at camp.

Meanwhile, there is -- well, there is a ton of other characters rounding out the crew, including the aforementioned mousy girl, Fritzi (Anna Kendrick), who somehow becomes Jill's indentured servant.

Graff's passion for his subject matter is good in that it means the jokes are often wickedly funny, but bad because it causes him to try to cover everything. The tone is unclear: One moment the characters are amusing but trifling; the next, we're supposed to take them seriously and care about their teen soap opera problems and love triangles. Is this a comedy or a drama? It's both, but the comedy parts are better.

That said, I like that way some serious issues of sexuality and adolescence are handled. Letterle and De Jesus, excellent as Vlad and Michael all the way through, have a lovely scene in an empty theater in which they come to understand one another and themselves a lot better. The characters are taken seriously, treated like real people. It helps the film.

Detracting from the film are a few musical numbers that could have been omitted altogether. It stands to reason that we will see bits of the shows the kids are working on, but does a minor character with a very minor subplot (her parents think she's too fat) deserve a five-minute solo? It's a great number, yeah, but it slows down the film at a point when it should be working toward a resolution and finale.

And, again, so what? The characters grow on you. Nearly all of the actors are making their screen debuts, and their enthusiasm shows. These are extremely charismatic kids, working with a funny script that just needs a little fine-tuning. It doesn't always deserve it, but "Camp" is one of the most likable films I've seen in a long time. Besides, Sondheim makes a cameo. How awesome is THAT?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6909&reviewer=247
originally posted: 01/30/03 22:33:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/06/12 Joey Just to see and hear Anna Kendrick sing, Terrific! 5 stars
5/14/07 Kay I loved this movie it was very good!! 5 stars
6/08/05 natalie awesome! great talent 5 stars
2/16/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble The kid actors I grew up with were jerks. This movie is a sweet fantasy. 4 stars
10/23/04 Natasha Theobald the music may be the main reason to watch the film 3 stars
10/06/04 Jdoe Silly little movie with incredible theatre performances! 4 stars
8/30/04 Rachel I'll admit being a theatre geek, but this movie was fantastic. 5 stars
7/05/04 Tess Fah-bulous, darling! Heh... 5 stars
7/04/04 cara very unique and metaphorical. A keeper. 5 stars
4/16/04 Michael Greenwaldt A blast! The main attraction is Daniel Letterle. It's impossible not 2 fall for this hottie 5 stars
4/06/04 Aviva Siegel Great! 5 stars
3/31/04 Red Wood Mundane story beyond repair;engaging numbers can't make up for idiotic script 2 stars
3/23/04 Matt R 2 VERY Enthusiastic Thumbs UP! ROCK ON! 5 stars
3/07/04 JC The biggest pile of crap I've seen in ages... 1 stars
2/17/04 Meg script is so-so, but the kids shine through with their terrific stage performances 5 stars
9/22/03 Ainsley Awful. Stereotypical homophobic rubbish 1 stars
8/31/03 Barb CAMP - - script a little clumky, but very enjoyable especially for theatre geeks like me. 4 stars
8/29/03 Joey I hate this movie!! hated,hated,hated this movie 1 stars
8/29/03 Brendan It really only makes sense if you're gay and can understand what it's like to be Michael. 5 stars
8/26/03 Hank Rubbish 1 stars
8/22/03 SisterDebMac Damn, Todd Graff cast Don Dixon before I could! 5 stars
8/19/03 Me Great 5 stars
8/16/03 Evan Herring One of the best movies I have seen 5 stars
8/15/03 Lord Chu It manages to be beautiful, touching, and hilarious at the same time. Bravo! 5 stars
8/10/03 steve lot's of fun 4 stars
7/25/03 Hank Queer is here. 1 stars
6/12/03 Betsy Amazing, Awesome, and Thrilling 5 stars
6/10/03 Melissa Smith Excellent! Rock on, Joanna! 5 stars
6/06/03 Hamlet I went to this camp as a teacher - still have nightmares 1 stars
5/28/03 Chris Styls Much better than Fame, bigger talent. Jill and Fritzi are hysterical. Jill is gorgeous! 5 stars
5/24/03 Michael Taylor I left the theater three hours ago and I'm still feeling happy about this film! 4 stars
5/23/03 michele the little kid wth the glasses was so cute funny . 5 stars
5/19/03 Chaz Harris CAMP is the best teen movie in ages to deal with REAL issues! 5 stars
5/18/03 michael It was lots of fun and very real, hits close to home, but I was a musician. Jax film fest 5 stars
5/14/03 sean amazing film and great cast 5 stars
5/10/03 rich cline a wacky take on the Fame theme 4 stars
5/09/03 jojo this movie is god 5 stars
5/08/03 Al Maw Characters are underdeveloped, and I kept laughing during the serious bits... 3 stars
4/10/03 Greg Cliched but Kosher=cute 4 stars
4/05/03 Kinolieber Incredible Fun! Exhilarating Musical Numbers. 5 stars
2/03/03 Charles Truly awesome! Fritzi kicks ass!! 5 stars
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  25-Jul-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Feb-2004



Directed by
  Todd Graff

Written by
  Todd Graff

  Don Dixon
  Joanna Chilcoat
  Robin de Jesus
  Anna Kendrick
  Stephen DiMenna
  Steven Cutts

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