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Review: 'Camp' follows a familiar script

A self-absorbed investment advisor (Michael Mattera) takes a troubled 10-year-old camper (Miles Elliot) under his wing in 'Camp.' Predictable life lessons ensue.

February 21, 2013|By Gary Goldstein
  • A scene from "Camp."
A scene from "Camp." (Handout )

"Camp," a faith-based drama inspired by actual stories from camps for abused and neglected children, has its heart squarely in the right place. Unfortunately, writer-director Jacob Roebuck, a former volunteer at one of the U.S.' many Royal Family Kids camps, takes such a bland, by-the-numbers approach to his vital subject that the film, though nicely performed, rarely builds into the kind of gripping emotional journey it clearly intended.

The movie involves Porsche-driving, cell-fixated investment advisor Ken (Michael Mattera), who, to impress a wealthy potential client, agrees to spend a week as a counselor at a bucolic camp for mistreated kids. In yet another cinematic case of the self-absorbed hipster thrust into a life-changing parental role ("Raising Helen" et al.), Ken is paired with — and pitted against — Eli (Miles Elliot), a surly 10-year-old camper with a cruel, recently OD'd mother and violent, estranged father.

How the fish-out-of-water Ken and the imploding Eli navigate their reluctant relationship, with the help of beautiful camp director Tammie (Grace Johnston) and tough but big-hearted veteran counselor Samuel (Asante Jones), follows a believable, if predictable, course as it slowly peels away Eli's many fears and defenses.

Less successful are attempts to flesh out the camp's other troubled kids, particularly the irritating, alien-obsessed Redford (Matthew Jacob Wayne). The romantic push-pull between former high school classmates Ken and Tammie also underwhelms.

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"Camp." MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence, a crude gesture and brief language. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. At AMC's Town Center 6, Burbank.

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