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Dan Heller's Movie Review of Camp


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In the new indie film "Camp", young teenage actors, singers and dancers go to Camp Ovation to learn and develop their skills in the fine art of Broadway stage productions. Yes, this troop of young teens are so incredibly talented, they can perform all the hits from Broadway, past and present, and you'll be as thrilled as if you were actually in Manhattan itself. But, what makes these kids—and thus, this movie - so engaging, is that they are real teens, with all the teenager issues we all know and love. While rough around the edges with some sloppy editing and cliche script in parts, the movie is still fun and poignant about the life of the "artsy" teenager.

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In fact, the cast of Camp is complete with dysfunctions of every sort, and they're all tied up in a ball of intertwining stories. Michael is beat up when he tries to attend his junior prom in drag, Ellen is so unpopular she has to go to her prom with her brother, Jill is so insecure she compensates by playing a power-hungry 12 year old version of Yvanna Trump, and the rest are a pitiful crew with sexual and family confusions. The main character, Vlad, is the only one who is "different" from the rest in that he's… well, "normal." He's the only straight kid in the group (among the males, anyway), good looking and appears solid as a brick. But, as we later learn, he too has a couple skeletons in the closet, and it isn't long before he has to confront his, too.

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The plot of the film is mostly about the kids dealing with their personal and emotional issues, ranging from romance to family problems, all the while under pressure of putting together ambitious stage productions under direction of the special guest director, Bert Hanley. Bert had a Broadway smash hit ten years ago, but has done nothing since, and has fallen to Alcoholism. Bert's main problem is his disdain for the very business he's there to teach the kids about. Through a series of comedic and distressing interplays, everyone seems to come out ahead, including the brooding Bert Hanley, leading up to the climactic stage production of a review of Hanley's unknown and unpublished productions that he's kept to himself over the past decade.

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The best parts of "Camp" are the kids themselves, both in their performances as actors, and in the stage productions they perform. In fact, if you have even the slightest enthusiasm for the stage, this film is a must-see. The characters are real, honest, and sympathetic.

The weaker part of the film is it's rough around the edges. First time director Todd Graff, who has a lengthy list of acting, writing and producing roles in the film industry, takes the reins in this independent film project, and it shows. Some scenes seem as though they probably weren't the best takes, certain lines or strings of dialog were cliché,
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and long-held close ups made it appear as though the movie was trying to parody the very genre it was portraying so well. None of this detracted from the film, but it was enough to punctuat the otherwise seamless stream of heartwarming humor and thoughtfulness that emanated from the actors.

All in all, I highly recommend "Camp", and think that any non-homophobic Broadway stage enthusiast would love it. If nothing else, you'll be just astounded by the amazing stage performances these kids performed. You can find this movie on the internet database here: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0342167

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