By Shawn McKenzie 08/15/2003
It is around this time of year moviegoers look toward the indie flicks to relieve them of the explosions and brainlessness of the summer popcorn flicks. Some of these flicks turn out to be Oscar contenders (or at least Independent Spirit Award contenders.) Iím not so sure Camp will be joining them.
In the normal world, theater geeks are the individuals who are picked on. At Camp Ovation, it is the opposite. Itís a summer camp for young actors, singers, and dancers, and there is no room for sports (though there is a sports counselor there.) Some of the kids attending Camp Ovation this year include Michael (Robin De Jesus), who was beaten up when he tried to attend his junior prom in drag. Michaelís friend Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat) is unpopular at home as well. She had to beg her brother to take her to her junior prom. Also arriving at the camp this year is Jenna (Tiffany Taylor), an overweight girl who has had her jaw wired shut by her parents (Eddie Clark and Leslie Frye) with the hopes that she will lose weight. The snobby diva is Jill (Alana Allen) who delights in ordering around the shy Fritzi (Anna Kendrick.) Dee (Sasha Allen) is another girl just there for the love of singing. They are all obsessed with Stephen Sondheim, and they have the opportunity to sing a few of his songs during the summer. They are required to put together a new show every two weeks, so they have a lot of hard work to do. At this camp, all the guys are pretty much gay, until Vlad (Daniel Letterle) shows up. He is a straight boy who immediately attracts Ellen, Jill, and Michael. Vlad forms a different type of relationship with all three of them. He sleeps with Jill, but he romances Ellen. As for Michael, Vlad tries to get him to be a heterosexual, which Michael goes along with because of his crush on Vlad. All of them may have drama going on in their lives, but at least they accept each other and get to do something they love while at the camp. That security and confidence is tested when guest director Bert Hanley (Don Dixon) shows up and bursts their bubbles. Bert had a Broadway hit ten years ago called The Childrenís Crusade, but hasnít had a successful show since then and has become a cynical alcoholic. It isnít until Vlad steals the latest piece Bert was working on and performs it that the teacherís confidence starts to come back. The kids and the teacher just might learn a thing or two about themselves before the summer ends.
Before I get to the list of bad things about this flick, let me get to the one good thing. The singing in this movie is pretty good. These kids have chops, at least when they are singing. Taylor has an amazing solo near the end when she gets the wire taken off her jaw.
Unfortunately, their acting skills leave something to be desired. The three leads, De Jesus, Chilcoat, and Letterle, were the worst of the bunch. It is the supporting cast, especially the All About Eve interplay between Allen and Kendrick, who are slightly interesting, but not by much.
The story in general is very ďABC Afterschool Special.Ē The storylines are meant to make you feel all gooey inside, but it just turns into a gay soap opera.
Camp is based off a real performing arts camp called Stagedoor Manor in New York. The director, Todd Graff, was a counselor there, and it boasted famous names like Robert Downey Jr., Mandy Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jon Cryer, and several others. I think a documentary about the real camp would have been more interesting than this film. I might go back to the popcorn flicks, because this is one camp I donít want to revisit this summer.
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