Camp Hideout aims to be a mash-up of Meatballs and Home Alone with a Christian twist. All it lacks is the masterful comedy of Bill Murray, the undeniable charm of Macaulay Culkin, the heart of a John Hughes screenplay, and the deft direction of Ivan Reitman. The movie begins with that old trope where the main character breaks the fourth wall, saying, “You’re probably wondering how I got into this mess…” Everything goes downhill from there.
Noah (Ethan Drew) is a troubled teen who does some work for a couple of low-life criminals, Charlie (Josh Inocalla) and Willis (Joshua Childs). They have him steal a video game console that contains top-secret information. What’s on it? The film cops out on that count. In voiceover, Noah tells us the much-desired contents are “a story for another day.” Gee, I don’t know, it seems kind of important to this story. The crooks screw him over, but in a contrived situation, he ends up with the console they want, and they end up with his identical console.
As this nonsense is playing out, Noah hops a bus to a week-long summer camp owned by the endlessly cranky Mr. Falco (Christopher Lloyd). Here, he encounters every single camp comedy cliché you can think of. There’s the Tripper Harrison-like counselor (Corbin Bleu) who tries to help him, the obnoxiously perky activities director, the weird overweight kid who won’t shut up, and the snooty rich guy who becomes his rival. The movie also includes the requisite food fight.
Noah and his fellow campers eventually learn that Charlie and Willis are coming for him. Do they make the sensible decision of calling the police? Nope, they set up a bunch of elaborate Kevin McAllister-style traps for the bad guys to conveniently walk into. The kids must be psychic, since they know in advance exactly where in the camp their foes will go and what they’ll do when they get there.
The way Camp Hideout plagiarizes Home Alone is shocking. There are two criminals, one short and angry, the other tall and goofy. Remember the paint can trap? It’s replicated here with large rocks. Freezing the sidewalk so the crooks slip and hurt themselves? That’s recreated by coating a dock with a slippery substance. None of it is funny, partially because the material rips off a much better movie, and partially because Inocalla and Childs lack the physical comedy skills of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
Religion-wise, Camp Hideout generally keeps things subtle. There’s a wooden cross on the camp stage, and Bleu’s character intermittently talks about praying. The final scene brings a jarring change of tone, though, suddenly giving a hard-sell Christian message. Even faith-friendly audiences are likely to feel manipulated by the way it’s crammed in. I wonder how the filmmakers reconcile a desire to honor Christianity with their story’s very un-Christian implication that it’s totally okay – and kind of fun - to commit physical violence toward your enemy. This whole inept film is a complete riddle.
out of four
Camp Hideout is rated PG for slapstick violence and thematic elements. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.