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The ViewDunedin Review

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Review byMatthew Turner1/09/2003


Three out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Camp by name and camp by nature, this is a good-natured, cheesy feel-good movie about “just being yourself” – there are lots of good gags, but it’s hampered by an irritating lead character.

Essentially, Camp is “Fame” at Summer Camp – it’s based on writer-director Todd Graff’s own experiences at Stagedoor Manor, a real-life performing arts camp attended by the likes of Robert Downey Jnr.

Deliberately cast entirely with newcomers and fresh faces, the film does throw up an impressive array of talent and the movie, though patchy in places, has enough good gags and decent songs to ensure its status as a future sing-a-long ‘camp classic’.

Performing Arts Summer Camp

The main message of the film is that kids who are outcasts and misfits in their ‘normal’ environment are welcomed with open arms and accepted at Camp Ovation, a performing arts summer camp where the kids all put on a different show every two weeks.

The various characters include; good-looking, all-American Vlad (Daniel Letterle), who, while straight, will do anything to be loved, including attempt to seduce his confused gay friends; Michael (Robin De Jesus), who was beaten up at school for attending his prom in drag; plain, unpopular Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), who falls for Vlad; Fritzi (Anna Kendrick), an ambitious 12 year old who schemes to be centre stage; and Jenna (Tiffany Taylor), a shy, overweight girl whose parents have had her jaw wired shut.

Cliché Laden And Lightweight – But Fun

The songs, by Stephen Sondheim (who makes an embarrassing cameo) and Stephen Trask (who wrote Hedwig and the Angry Inch) aren’t exactly classics, but they’re belted out with such enthusiasm by the cast that it’s hard not to get swept along.

The film also has some extremely good gags, such as the dictatorial director who insists on “eyebrow and nostril blocking” during a Beckett production where only the performer’s heads are visible.

The main problem with the film is that the lead character, as well as having a stupid name, is in dire need of a Bloody Good Slap – his eventual excuse of ‘just wanting to be loved’ in no way excuses his actions throughout the film and it’s frustrating that he gets let off so easily. However, the other sub-plots are more fun, particularly the sub-Showgirls rivalry between Fritzi and gorgeous blonde Jill (Alanna Allen).

In short, though Camp is cliché-laden and ultimately rather lightweight it has its moments and its sheer sense of enthusiasm is enough to carry it through. In addition, it’s fun to predict which of the stars will become Future Stars and which will go back to waiting tables…

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Content updated: 18/01/2019 04:34

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