View Full Version : Camp

John DeSando
08-18-2003, 08:33 PM
In this “Camp” the summertime learning is supposedly about performing in musicals. A regimen of one show every 2 weeks (“Follies,” “Dreamgirls,” and “Promises, Promises,” for example) should have schooled even the best slacker, but the shenanigans outside of rehearsal unfortunately are the more important learning focus for most of the film.

The ensemble song ''Turkey Lurkey Time'' from “Promises” is proof of the cast’s potential talent and that of director Todd Graff, who served as a counselor at the real camp, Stagedoor Manor. Yet Graff spends an inordinate amount of time on the sexual meanderings of the multi-ethnic teens, who are still struggling with their identity but having little problem exploring the question. Better would have been emphasizing the transformation of kids to actors through the guidance of the camp professionals.

Vlad, the rare heterosexual boy at this camp, is lucking out all over the place as the object of affections for gays and straight girls. Neither he nor most other actors in this film are more than the best of their high-school drama club. In fact, watching this film is like watching a good high-school musical.

In its favor, the film tries to be democratic. As Stephen Holden of the “ New York Times” put it in contrast to “Fame”:
“These teenagers -- black, white, Latino, gay and straight -- display a hip, easygoing candor, especially when it comes to sexual orientation, that's pretty much unprecedented for a teenager-slanted movie musical.”

“Fame’s” “Out Here on My Own” is done well, as is ''And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going'' from ''Dreamgirls.” Also, some of the original songs are memorable, especially the ballads composed and written by “Fame’s” Michael Gore and Lynn Ahrens. But “Fame” this film is not.

“Camp” overall is punctuated by some stunning vocal renditions interspersed with teen love affairs maybe even less interesting than that of J Lo and Ben Affleck. The off-stage drama has the feel of a high-school play while on-stage performance is professional and delightful.

John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.

09-16-2003, 08:32 AM
...but ultimately disappointing. While I was engaged by the diamond-in-the-rough storytelling style, that was also the biggest drawback of this charming little film. By the title, I expected a bigger, more ambitious picture--more along the lines of the humor and campiness in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," or at the very least, the verve and style of "Fame." I'd have even settled for the charm of another great "camp" film, "Little Darlings." Unfortunately, "Camp" contained none of these attributes. Instead, what it displayed was a sort of subtle poignancy and a strong sense of the bittersweet. The acting was very uneven, though it was obvious that most, if not all, of the cast were first-time actors for this film, which lent itself to the overall tone of the work. I found myself rooting for Michael, the most flamboyant gay character in the picture, and wishing for a lice-infested crotch for the token straight character, who proved to be a "player"--a sort of reverse stereotyping? (and why, oh why, was this straight character given the cumbersome name of "Vlad"? To reference "Vlad the Impaler"? Yikes!) "Camp" even made me think of another film made by friend Larry Clark--"Kids" Though that picture was decidedly dark with moments of morbid humor, it did what it set out to do. And that would be my biggest complaint for "Camp"...what was the message? Straight boys are mean and will only break your heart? Gay boys get beat up when they show up for their prom in drag? Don't trust anyone? Even an alcoholic hack can still create tolerable stage productions? Though missing a lot of opportunities, (a better developed relationship between Vlad and the alcholic could've lent some much needed REAL conflict to the story) "Camp" was still enjoyable and watchable, with its biggest selling point: THE TALENT. Boy, those kids can sing!