One of the biggest insults today is being called a “theater kid.” It stands for a high-schooler so obsessed with theater that they immediately burst into song at the mere mention of a musical they love. They are known to be loud and annoying, with a lot of narcissism thrown in if they didn’t get a good part. Recently, the term has been thrown around social media like a schoolyard insult at anybody who says they like a Broadway show. Some people have even distanced themselves with this perceived group, saying they are just a “kid in theater” and not one of the evil, maniacal “theater kids.”
As such, when people see a movie called Theater Camp, it should be a no-brainer that this movie would be for theater kids and theater kids only. However, there is enough substance in this movie to endear itself to a non-musical loving audience. Many people not singing the songs of Wicked or Phantom of the Opera can find as much enjoyment as the theater enthusiasts that were probably the ones to recommend it to them.
The main plot involves the director of a summer theater camp, Joan Rubinsky, going comatose and the documentary crew following her business-obsessed son, Troy, as he takes over the camp. Although this is the main draw of the film, it soon anchors itself onto the adventures of Amos Klobuchar and Rebecca-Diane, played by theater-legend Ben Platt and Molly Gordon, who try to get a musical about the comatose Joan going. While starting out strong, the middle is where a lot of the problems start to show.
Being adapted from a short film, it struggles to stretch itself out to 90 minutes, and introduces things in the beginning that it doesn’t flesh out later. The writing shows that it wanted to tell a specific story about two people sacrificing for each other, but needed to make time to get to feature length. Despite not getting enough screen time, the many elements that remain are decently funny. The teacher who lied on her resume is a hilarious, albeit pointless, addition to the cast, as is the kid who wants to become a theater manager. The storyline with Troy being an outsider for being considered “normal” is interesting, but unfortunately does not get the screen time it deserves to really flesh out his character. Even the mockumentary aspect is sort of forgotten as Amos and Rebecca-Diane really start to overtake center stage (pun intended).
By the finale, things start to pick up again. The play that has been set up for the whole movie is finally shown, and some elements, like Troy’s roommate Tim and the comatose Joan, are brought back into the fold. The mock performance is really well made and impressive for a smaller indie movie like this (the soundtrack is on Spotify if you’re interested). For the closing number, all the campers come together to sing how great the camp is, and all the storylines come to a sweet conclusion. While touching in a cute sort of way, it falls flat as we really only know two of the campers personally, and one of them isn’t even in the final song. Overall, Theater Camp — provided you can get past the middle — is a decently funny ride that even those who aren’t part of the “theater kid” demographic can get a good chuckle out of.
Rocco Lippi is a first-year Film, Photography & Visual Arts major with a strong distaste for theater kids.