“Theater Camp”


Rotten Tomatoes (3/5), Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (3/5)

Films in the mockumentary genre can be thoroughly satisfying entertainment experiences when done right, as seen in such examples as “Zelig” (1983), “This Is Spinal Tap” (1984) and “Fear of a Black Hat” (1993). But the key, as noted above, is in doing them right, something to which this latest such offering from writer-directors Nick Lieberman and Molly Gordon can’t lay claim. The problem here is that the picture is too hit or miss on too many fronts: When it’s on, it’s brilliant and genuinely hilarious (especially in the film’s final act); however, when it’s not, it tries too hard to be funny and often ends up falling flat. That’s unfortunate, since the picture’s high points – as good as they are – simply aren’t enough to make up for the low ones. This faux look into life at an Adirondack theatrical-themed summer camp for youngsters and teens has a few too many diverse story threads that stray from the picture’s central premise. Then there are the characterizations, which are truly well developed but focus more on the camp’s adult staffers than on the characters that should matter most – the campers themselves. What’s more, the narrative relies heavily on the use of graphics to move the story along, but they frequently stay on the screen for unduly short durations, a practice that becomes progressively irritating over time. In all, this is a production that feels half-finished, one sorely in need of tidying up to make it work as well as it might have. Perhaps that’s due in part to the picture’s volume of material – 70 hours of footage – but that abundance of images likely wasn’t culled as effectively as it might have been. It feels as if the film aspires to be like one of Christopher Guest’s mockumentary projects (most notably “Waiting for Guffman” (1996)) but just doesn’t quite come up to the same level, despite a strong underlying basis that should have leant itself well to this format. To be sure, this is by no means an awful release; it makes for a modestly pleasant at-home streaming option for a midweek evening. It’s just regrettable that it doesn’t live up to what it could have been.