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This movie has an amateurish air to it, with more than its share of
sloppy edits, plot dead-ends, and those little acting moments that take
the viewer out of the story. The story and setting are so entertaining,
however, that it manages to overcome its shortcomings and remain a
memorable experience. The characters are realistic and fun, and the
song choices are consistently good (especially "Turkey Lurkey Time"
which is otherwise unavailable on film, far as I know). The original
songs (from the people who brought you "Fame") are also
It's interesting to me that among a cast of newcomers and unknowns, the worst performances are from the adults--especially Don Dixon (Bert). The kids fare much better in general, and their musical performances are their real strengths (unsurprisingly). A surer hand on the direction and script could have tightened Camp up considerably, but even as messy as it is, it's still well worth seeing.
After a string of musical flops, the career of Bert Hanley is at rock
bottom, which leads him to take up a position with a musical summer
camp. When he arrives to teach he finds a diverse group of boys and
girls who have come together to put on one musical every two weeks,
leading up to one final show at the end of the camp. He is angry at the
children's naïve ease of acceptance of the musical lifestyle and
their apparent comfort with who they are, feeling that they are not
helping themselves for when they go out into the real world. However
will their energy for the music win him over or just frustrate him?
I can understand why this film didn't make a massive splash when it hit UK cinemas basically I saw a trailer for it then the next time I saw it, it was on DVD! It is very different from your average teen movie as well as being different from many musicals (not always a massive genre in themselves). I will be the first to admit that this film has weaknesses but I enjoyed it from the opening song, through to the final show there was barely a moment where I was bored or uninterested. The basic plot is a mix of minor story lines around an array of characters various romances happen, lessons are learned, eyes are opened and friendships made. It all sounds rather ordinary and, in a way, I suppose that it does do just what you expect it to. However, pretty much every other aspect of the film comes together to lift the film to be better than the script suggested it would be.
Primarily, if you hate musicals, then avoid this for it is a big part and, for me, it served as a superb foundation. The overall soundtrack is really good and is an enjoyable mix of music but it is the actual musical numbers that really lift the film. They are really enjoyable both the well known ones and the new songs; they fit in well with the narrative and act as good bits of punctuation. The narrative could have been stronger but the musical numbers mean that even if the narrative causes a slight dip, then the songs are there to provide a lift.
The characters are very well drawn, even if they don't use them that well. The fact that we have so many diverse teenagers who seem at ease with who they are is perhaps rather difficult to swallow but it certainly helps make the film feel a bit different from the usual. At first I was a bit put off by how the gay characters all seemed to be of the 'flaming' variety, but as the film went on I got over this and got to know their characters and not just their characteristics. More impressively, the whole cast (mainly teenagers) are really good they cope with the demands of the narrative (and the limitations as well) but they are very impressive when it comes to the musical numbers. One time tutor at one of these camps himself, writer/director Graff does a really good job with the direction here it never feels as low budget as I imagine it must have been and he frames many shots in involving ways.
Overall this is a standard teenage movie with all the hurts, lessons, romances and friendships that you would expect from the genre but it manages to rise above many of the genre by having different (if unrealistic) characters, roundly good performances and frequent musical numbers that never let the fun level of the film dip for too long.
Does Stephen Trask (HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH) ever write a note of bad
This is a wonderful movie. Admittedly, the pace is not perfection. But the music is great, the jokes are funny and most importantly it portrays a specific milieu. And movies that bring the audience into a milieu they might not know exists are almost always interesting. I've seen this movie once and I'll see it again.
Ignore the critics who want to tell you what the movie isn't and what it should be. They'll only keep you from enjoying a good movie. Todd Graff has something to say. This is his movie and it works. One magazine reviewer noted that the kids in this movie emerge as full-blown professionals. Well -- they are! Most of these kids have never done anything before. That's part of what is being said here. There's all this talent that no one has ever seen. There are kids who are this good. Todd Graff found them.
Camp is based on a real camp in the Catskills, NY. I have worked there for the past few years and had the slightly strange experience of attending the national premiere with the whole of the camp in addition to Todd Graf and the cast who then came back to the camp to sit in on rehearsals for the evening. For this among other reasons, I found it quite difficult to view the film objectively. The whole film was shot on location at the camp, apart from a couple of shots which were shot nearby, and so the majority of film was spent with the kids cheering whenever a new location was shown, or for a number of the cast who had really attended the camp in the past few years. For the sake of the film you have to accept that this is a camp with no counsellors, dorms that opposite sexes can go into at will among other things. However the depiction of the characters were strong. As a theatre kid said to me this summer, `I come here because everyone else is just as weird as I am!' And that is kind-a the motto of the movie. I do wish they'd showed more of the sports counsellor (who again does exist at a theatre camp in the same way that most sports camps put on a play). I know they shot more footage and had to edit it out. The songs are overdubbed as a previous reviewer wrote, but it is the kids singing them, they were just recorded in a studio. All in all I enjoyed the film, and am interested in hearing other peoples opinions who are not involved with the camp the film is based on. Yes kids like these do exist, and yes they are the guys you will see on Broadway and in the movies in a few years.
...although that may not be saying much, it truly loves these kids that it portrays and is clearly made for such kids. Other reviewers have faulted "Camp" for its shallow plot, the inconsistency of its characters, the stereotypes, and an overall amateurish quality. All I can say is "What'd you expect? It's a teen drama!" In fact, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have worked if the film tried to be more grown-up. To properly enjoy "Camp", adult viewers need to recall their world view during their teen years. Only then can they realize how much they would have wanted to see a movie like this when they were teens. Of course, if you were a quarterback or prom queen in high school, then perhaps you wouldn't be able to relate to this movie at all.
I throughly enjoyed the singing on this movie! Dee (Sasha Allen) did a fantastic job. She really put the SOUL into the lyrics of the songs. The lyrics were heart-felt and soulful on every level, especially the barnyard scene and the opening song to the movie. Every actor and actresses did an outstanding job portraying the mode for each song. I want to commend the directors and cast of this movie on a grand job. I also enjoyed seeing that all aspects of teenage life were portrayed in the film from homosexuality and love and hate relationships to betrayal and deceit. Brought a lot of my life back into play. I commend everyone on a super job. Could we possibly see a Part II to this movie??
New York junior and high school students go to a summer camp for kids
interested in musical theatre. Lead actor is attractive Daniel Letterle
(as Vladimir "Vlad" Baumann). With highlights and good muscle tone, Mr.
Letterle arouses interest in most of the other kids. Gay is the norm at
"Camp Ovation", so Letterle stands out. The unpacking of his football
lets everyone know he's straight. Honest. Letterle's roommate is
cross-dressing Robin De Jesus (as Michael Flores), who was rejected and
beat up at his prom for showing up in drag. Lead actress is chunky but
pleasant Joanna Chilcoat (as Ellen Lucas), who hopes to land a
This stereotypical "comedy about drama" will mostly appeal to younger teenagers who enjoy high school musicals...
Letterle's character is written (by director Todd Graff) with some unexpected depth; the mystery of his medication is withheld, he plays the slowly sexual teasing of his roommate perfectly, and an honest portrait of a young attention-seeking actor emerges. Other interesting stories are the "All About Eve" part played by Anne Kendrick (as Fritzi Wagner) and the washed-up musical writer Don Dixon (as Bert Hanley) drowning his career in alcohol. The show songs hit a peak with Tiffany Taylor (as Jenna Malloran), so fat her father has had her mouth wired shut, startling everyone (well, not me) by revealing a great singing voice. Who knew?
****** Camp (1/21/03) Todd Graff ~ Daniel Letterle, Joanna Chilcoat, Robin de Jesus, Don Dixon
I had heard the soundtrack to Camp before I actually go to see the film, and yet I still didn't really know what to expect. Camp was a simple film, tackling complex subjects in a perfectly flawed manner. Nothing that I can say here will do this film justice. It is, quite simply, the best film I've seen this year.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So tonight we went and saw Todd Graff's Camp, a movie we eagerly awaited
after seeing the previews for it while watching Spellbound. SPOILERS about
CAMP are embedded, so if you are planning to see it, please do not read
So the film is sold and written about in the press as a depiction of this camp for misfits, gays and drag queens. So much of the hype revolves around the sheer queerness of the kids and their desire to dedicate their summer to a grueling schedule of musical theater. The cast, in proportion, is more diverse than most casts, and with a few exceptions, they seem to be playing close to their ages (unlike shows like 90210h, I'm really 36!, and Saved by the Bell).
If you are coming to see Camp for the music, you will not be disappointed. There are rousing renditions of songs from Fosse and Gospel at Colonnus and other shows. There is a buttkicking diva moment in "The Ladies Who Lunch." These folks can sing and totally have the musical theater thing down. Any stage would be lucky to have them.
No, the problem with this film is that it is so focused on the sexy-abbed straight guy amongst all the gay guys and drama girls that the movie really loses its way. Characters go undeveloped or underutilized, story lines are undernourished and many of them seem to just be serving to show that these kids were actually at the camp so you aren't surprised later when they show up in one of the numbers. The hetero boy thing is just irritating though. Finally, here comes a movie about the freaks, the queers, the effeminate, gay, Sondheim-worshipping fancy boys and the drama girls who love them and their own inner divas, and 75% of the movie follows the straight guy whose name is Vlad (even the name makes you think he is going to be throwing a spear).
I do not begrudge the actor, Daniel Letterle, or the character his storyline. His performance is solid and at times very strong (he has a wonderful voice) if not lacking due to the uber-predictable script. And yes, he is definitely pretty to look at. But his story could have been whittled down a bit so we can actually spend time with some of the other folks at the Camp who seem thrown in like pinches of this and that.
I just spent the whole time wondering if any of the gay guys were going to get a kiss or some screen time without the Vladinator near by. The talented drag queen Michael, played exceptionally well by Robin De Jesus with a light, loving touch, is constantly focused on the I-am-in-the-second-string-tour-of-Dawson's-Creek-the-Musical Vlad. A friendship is built, and Michael wants him, but we are left wondering why Michael didn't get at least a kiss or some attention from any of the 525,600 gay guys that were there.
A refreshingly out, campy, and just as attractive Spitzer (played by Vince Rimoldi) seems like an apt character to have a kiss or a little backstage action with Michael -- or any of the other dancer/actor/models who seem to populate the dance numbers. But there is nothing. Romance, even Precious Moments wide-eyed summer camp hand holding romance is reserved for the hetero, and therefore safe and sexy Vlad and his string of lady-friends.
I am not asking for Skinimax here people. But when you make a movie about musical theatre and summer camp, we expect that some of the gay guys are going to get some play. Instead, the Vladinator gets play all over the place and the gay men get Will Truman-ed out of the script.
The other great crime here is the total underutilization of Tiffany Taylor (Jenna) and Sasha Allen (Dee). These women can sing and Taylor's performance alone is worth seeing the film for. Yes, it is built on a "fat girl kicks her evil parents' ass for being such jerks" cliche, but who cares-- she is a star and delivers a number that will be hard to forget. Allen also has some throw away plot device scenes, but you get the feeling there is so much more there. I would have statyed another 15 minutes to see more of these two.
Queer bitterness and thin character lines aside, I liked this movie a lot. It has heart and I was never bored. The story is predictable and very after school special at times, but I wasn't going to see Schindler's List. The tone is consistent where the writing simply isn't.
Joanna Chilcoat, playing the supposedly homely Ellen (I thought she was beautiful), gives a sound and thorough performance throughout. She is an accessible performer and I appreciated her efforts. I think she has a huge career ahead of her as so many others in the cast.
So I do recommend that people see this film. The fun moments are fun and much of the humor is cute and the "oh no she didn't moments" are equally satisfying. Again, the musical theater numbers are first rate and well thought through.
Look out for Anna Kendrick (Fritzi) both on Broadway and on film. Her performance is intense and her number is perhaps the best musical theater moment in an otherwise unbalanced movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!!! The most amazing thing about this film is that
Steven Sondheim actually agreed to play himself in it. You'd think he
had better taste.
Camp is really one of the most unprofessional films I have seen in a long time (except perhaps for the musicians).
First of all, the sets look like they were made on the lowest of budgets.
Second, it was totally clichéd and you could figure out where it was going looooong before it got there. There was almost nothing in it that was original...we have seen it all before and much better done.
Third... it is an insult to our intelligence. Three gay guys and a straight share the same bunkhouse and the straight doesn't feel even a little uncomfortable? At almost the end of the film the straight guy takes off his shirt and the gay guy gets all hot and bothered...ummmm...if they share the same bunkhouse, wouldn't he have already seen it weeks ago? The rich beautiful girl just drops her bags and the other girl picks them up and becomes her slave? Pul-leeze! Also, how does she end up getting a bunkhouse with a bed that looks like it should have been Mae West's? How come she isn't sharing a bunkhouse like all the other girls? The acting was pretty low par...I barely believed any of them except maybe the black kid who complained about playing white parts in the plays...But then again, I guess it is hard to make cardboard characters come to life, so I guess it isn't the kids' fault if the acting comes across as less than acceptable.
Need I go on? This whole thing comes across as a TV sitcom that would have been acceptable in the 1950's but would have been considered as not sophisticated enough for a ten year old by today's standards.
Oh, and, for a film that is supposed to be gay positive, how come the main character is the only straight boy in the entire movie? We see three girls and one gay boy all having crushes on Mr Hetero... but none of the gay boys gets a chance to have a boyfriend. Why not? It would have livened things up a bit to have at least an attempt at equality. Or aren't gay romances (that aren't doomed) acceptable for the straight market?
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