‘Theater Camp’ Review: Mediocre Musical Theater Comedy Fails to Make an Impression

After being scooped up out of Sundance by Searchlight, this Christopher Guest-inspired comedy pays tribute to those misfits who come together and find solace in their shared enthusiasm for the theater.

Co-directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, along with screenwriters Noah Galvin and Ben Platt, who have a long history of sketches, web series, and improvised shorts, created this playful comedy for the theater geeks. Musical aficionados will find an abundance of relatable in-jokes from the creative team’s obvious fondness for their craft. Though non-theatergoers may be left searching for more than fits and starts throughout watching it.

The story follows two best friends, Amos (Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Gordon), as their relationship begins to unravel while they work on an original musical about Joan’s legacy. The most compelling aspect of the movie is that viewers get to watch several minutes of the finished product: Joan, Still. Additionally, Troy tries his hardest to maintain order in this situation.

A secondary plotline involves the hardened, deadpan board member of an adjoining camp (portrayed by the always entertaining Patti Harrison) who spots a chance for expansion. Additionally, the camp comes alive with its vibrant characters such as dance instructor Clive (Nathan Lee Graham) and sharp-tongued costume designer Gigi (Owen Thiele).

Galvin truly stands out among the adult cast, providing a deeply emotional portrayal of an unfulfilled third-generation stage manager. His performance culminates in a genuinely heartwarming and sentimental musical finale that is sure to leave everyone with a smile. Ayo Edebiri also steals the show as he plays up his awkward typecasting; although clearly not competent for the job, he was hired by their budget constraints.

The creators of this film had a promising concept ripe for parody, yet unfortunately, their execution was highly misguided. Primarily an issue with the format; rather than taking full advantage of the overdone mockumentary genre, they only half-heartedly commit to it by utilizing shaky camera shots and unnecessarily finagled scenes through door cracks or blinds that prove more distracting than enjoyable.

Unlike other similar productions, this one does not incorporate fourth-wall-breaking or talking heads. Instead, its visual language is whimsical and often unintelligible. The movie’s desaturated color palette creates a grainy, muted texture that serves to undermine rather than enhance the exaggerated personalities of the characters and overall camp vibe.

Sruti Chowdhury

Sruti is a storyteller for all trades. She loves to write about everything -- from sci-fi movies to cyber security. She is a phenomenal singer, an ardent reader, and dreams to travel the world.

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