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Movie Reviews

Sundance: ‘Theater Camp’ Is Not As Funny As It Thinks It Is

Theater Camp recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the Jury prize for best ensemble. Read the official synopsis below, followed by our review of the film.

As summer rolls around again, kids are gathering from all over to attend AdirondACTS, a scrappy theater camp in upstate New York that’s a haven for budding performers. After its indomitable founder Joan (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma, her clueless “crypto-bro” son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is tasked with keeping the thespian paradise running. With financial ruin looming, Troy must join forces with Amos (Ben Platt), Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon), and their band of eccentric teachers to come up with a solution before the curtain rises on opening night.

Brought to life by first time feature directorial duo Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman. Written by Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Nick Liberman and Ben Platt, who together wrote the short film Theater Camp on which this feature is based.

This movie is written by four friends, three of whom star in it. Theater Camp feels very much like an in joke that maybe got stretched too far. I am not a theater camp person so I’m not their target audience, I still get the humour and why it’s meant to be funny but it didn’t quite land for me. I’m sure if you’ve been to theater camp, you’ll get more out of it than I did.

I see why Theater Camp won the Sundance Jury prize for best ensemble. The cast is very strong with plenty of familiar faces. Molly Gordon’s (Booksmart, You People) Rebecca-Diane and Ben Platt’s (Pitch Perfect, Dear Evan Hansen) Amos lead the titular theater camp. They’re both annoying, highly strung people who may put too much stock into the camp. They both bring about some laughs and their extreme personalities are intentionally too much.

Noah Galvin’s (The Good Doctor, Booksmart) Glenn is a much more reserved character. He is in the background but has the makings of a star. Jimmy Tatro (Home Economics, American Vandal) plays his usual character, seems dumb but isn’t completely useless. The kids in the film are funny and very natural, finding good child actors is tough but they did a good job.

Theater Camp uses text too often on screen to let the audience know what’s happening. Even in a mockumentary style film like this, with no talking heads or narration, I would expect more of the story to be shown through actions rather than told via text on screen. It wasn’t the best idea to further the plot in my opinion.

The end of the film is the best part, it builds to a nice conclusion. Lifelong friends going through changes leading to tension is not an original concept but it is entertaining enough. Some of the songs in the musical are good, which is essential for a film of this nature. Ultimately, the cast is having more fun than the audience but it’s good enough to pass a few hours watching on a streaming service.

Searchlight bought the rights to Theater Camp for around $8 million, so expect to see it in theaters or on Hulu later this year or early 2024.

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