Summercamp! Movie Review from My Netflix Queue

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I had a college roommate who worked at a summer camp in New Hampshire. He claimed the biggest job he had to undertake was preventing the thirteen-year-old boys from dying of masturbation exhaustion. It’s not hard to imagine, given just a little taste of the hormonal teenage woes we saw in the documentary, Summercamp! Pair that with the bored, embittered counselors, the painfully awkward first-year campers and the “oh my god, how can you be this happy” camp owners and you have the stuff of a good documentary.

But somehow, it all fizzles in Summercamp.

Don’t get me wrong, there was great opportunity here. I was rapt with the bully who beat up other campers then cried every night because he missed his mommy. I loved seeing the camp counselors cockblocking lusty teenagers in the darkened shadows of the campfire. And who couldn’t be moved by the weird girl who carries around eight stuffed animals in her pockets to talk to when she gets lonely?

This was a movie of delicious subject matter put in what appears to be the hands of first-time film school students. It missed so much great opportunity to build a tantalizing story and the result felt like little more than a camcorder turned on and left in the corner.

But even inept film-making couldn’t dampen some moments of splendor in Summercamp, mostly captured through the unbidden moments of truth when campers spoke about life at home. Take the young boy saying he never wanted camp to end because when he goes back home, his dad is a lawyer so he’ll never see him much anyway. Or the girl who explains plainly that her parents want her to make friends at camp since she hasn’t been able to make any at home.

Such moments of innocent truth were heartbreakingly honest. I can only imagine how the parents of these children felt upon watching the film. I’d lay odds those kids got some big fat “mommy and daddy are sorry we’re a mess” presents under the Christmas tree that year.

My final take? Rent it if you’re just looking to feel mildly amused. You know, the same way you feel when you’re cruising through TV channels and you find yourself laughing at America’s Funniest Home Videos and then you’re overcome by shame and horror as you realize you were just watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. Don’t lie. We’ve all been there.

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