Summer Camp : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on May 31, 2024 in / No Comments

 

Rated PG-13 for sexual material, strong language, and some underage smoking. Outtakes play during credits. Running time: 96 minutes. Released by Roadside Attractions.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Roadside Attractions, Summer CampThere’s a joy to the corniness of Castille Landon’s Summer Camp, a story about three lifelong camp buddies brought together in their advancing age for a reunion. It’s nice to see leads Kathy Bates, Diane Keaton, and Alfre Woodward having some fun with themselves. Although bearing predictably threadworn plot points and swerves, it’s a cute film that doesn’t ask much; just accept that other films like it with men in the lead roles were simply as corny, too.

Our central trio of Ginny (Bates), Nora (Keaton), and Mary (Woodard) – who met as disparate youths at an 8-week sleepaway camp – are now past middle age, with more behind than ahead. Self-help and wellness celebrity Ginny has been trying to keep the gang together, but each of them has their own work/life balance issues. Mary’s got a demanding nursing job – a consolation prize after getting married and missing out on her dream of being a doctor. On the other hand, Nora’s still getting over the loss of her husband by sinking herself into work. And neither of them have the time to hang out with Ginny anymore. That is, until Ginny “kidnaps” them and takes them both in her publicity RV – with her catchphrase “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER” emblazoned on the side – to Camp Pinnacle, the site of the beginning of their friendship.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Roadside Attractions, Summer CampQuite frankly, Summer Camp reads just like American Pie 2, in which friends reunite for a magical summer and try to cadge some of life’s glory for themselves while possibly hiding secrets that eventually come out in the wash. Sure, Ginny appears to have everything together, but her perceived splashing out for a luxury cabin at the camp is just the start of what’s revealed to be a control complex. It seems that Mary’s husband can’t do anything without her being there to do it for him. And having lost herself in work, she doesn’t have enough to share with camp crush Stevie D (Eugene Levy), who’s got his own story to tell.

Seriously, it’s enough to see Bates, Keaton, and Woodard goofing around like pals without the seriousness needed to stretch their acting chops. While the expected big blowup starts boiling early with Nora and Mary noticing that Ginny’s trying too hard to control things and dashing off advice (whether wanted or unwanted, especially at the prospect of one of them straying from their marriage) at the drop of a hat, quickly-delivered jibes and jokes keep speeding through our ears, allowing us to relax and laugh along with them. There’s nothing heavy beyond a confrontation that deals directly with claiming one’s space and freedom to do what they want, the weight of which is quickly undone by a massive food fight. An attempt at some kind of romantic reconnection between Mary and Tommy (Dennis Haysbert) gets flung at us, but it’s more of a stepping stone on her way to seeing what she has and what she has yet to accomplish.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Roadside Attractions, Summer CampBut more importantly, it’s letting go of the little trappings and pretensions that we hold from childhood that make us think we’re better than everyone else. It brings to mind an exchange from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, where budding writer William Miller tells famed rock journalist Lester Bangs that everyone at his high school hates him; Bangs replies, “You’ll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle.” Jane (Beverly D’Angelo), the leader of the camp’s so-called Pretty Committee, provides an example of this in a more overt and direct way during a session with Ginny, during which several truths undo the carefully-curated façade Jane sports to make others believe she has the perfect life. Likewise, as the film progresses, bits and bits are stripped away until our lead three have the truth out in the open, which brings the fireworks to a head.

The truth is that we’re all hurting with the pain of getting older. Not a physical pain, but the pain that comes with the knowledge that life isn’t perfect, no matter how much we want it to be. But at least for a while, friends – true friends – can help make it bearable and fun sometimes. And that’s what Summer Camp really is; it’s nothing more than a friend calling for help from her two besties under the guise of “getting the band back together.” In that, Summer Camp is a success, bubbling with the froth of excitement at being with people who get you and whom you get in return. This light mix of these three characters played by beyond-talented actors just wants to have a little harmless fun, much like they did when they were kids; only now, there’s wine and charcuterie instead of sloppy joes.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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