"CAMP" — ★★1/2 — Michael Mattera, Miles Elliot, Grace Johnston. Directed by Jacob Roebuck; PG-13 (mild language); Gateway, Jordan Commons
The world could use a few more movies like "Camp."
It's far from perfect. The acting ranges from compellingly strong to painfully amateurish. Director and writer Jacob Roebuck at times shows a competent skill at filmmaking, but he also has a tendency to linger on shots and pile on the emotional baggage, especially with an unnecessary epilogue.
Behind those flaws is a movie that at its heart presents a positive message. It's the kind of overly dramatic story that at one time was presented as an "Afterschool Special." Now it must battle for attention in theaters amid a cinematic swirl of horror, action and crude comedy.
It's unapologetic in its sentimentality, and it's sad that these stories only show up in small independent films or faith-based productions. There still must be people who want to believe that good can win without a show of force, or that faith, hope and charity aren't just the names of strippers.
"Camp" is a story of recovery. Eli (Miles Elliot) has seen more misery in his 12 years than any human should endure. His last hope is a summer camp for mistreated and forgotten children. The only problem is that Eli's counselor, Ken (Michael Mattera), is a fast-talking businessman who only agrees to the job as a way to woo a client. Both begin a weeklong trek to salvation.
The film's Christian themes are plentiful, with the setting a church-operated camp, and the spiritual moments don't feel like they were added to the script at the last moment.
The movie is at its best when it focuses on Mattera and Grace Johnston, who plays the head of the camp. Both bring the best acting talents to the story.
One of the key messages in "Camp" is that we sometimes miss the big picture if we aren't willing to look for it.
While "Camp" suffers the bumps and bruises that come with a small budget faith-based film, it should be judged by its message and not the messenger.
"Camp" is rated PG-13 for mild language; running time 111 minutes.