Summer Camp

Summer Camp is the latest example of what I call the “Crazy Old Lady comedy.” These films - which include the Book Club pictures, 80 for Brady, and Poms - bring together three or four veteran actresses, then force them to engage in dumb, slapstick/screwball antics that are totally beneath them. To act like crazy old ladies, in other words. Is there no one in Hollywood willing to create quality material for women over 60? Why must our female legends get stuck making moronic nonsense if they want to work?

In this case, Diane Keaton (whose career of late sadly consists of a string of Crazy Old Lady comedies), Kathy Bates, and Alfre Woodard play Nora, Ginny, and Mary, three women who have been close friends since they met at camp as tweens. Nora is a fun-averse workaholic, Ginny a famous self-help author, and Mary a nurse who gave up her dream of becoming a doctor to marry her no-good husband. They reunite at Camp Pinnacle for a week-long anniversary celebration. Also in attendance is rival Jane (Beverly D’Angelo), who of course is still snooty and still being followed around by the same two lackies. Former camp stud Stevie D (Eugene Levy) shows up, as well.

The drill is the same as it always is. Nora and Stevie D start up a flirtation that includes lots of sexual references. Mary grows close to old crush Tommy (Dennis Haysbert), a guy who treats her with respect, unlike the lout she’s married to. Ginny specializes in writing books about how to get your act together, only to reveal her life isn’t together at all. Over the course of the week, their individual problems are magically solved through wacky white water rafting trips, zip lines, and food fights.

Is this really what anybody wants? Would you rather see Oscar-winner Keaton, Oscar-winner Bates, and Oscar-nominee Woodard throwing food at each other or starring in a film that deals with the authentic life issues of older women? I know what my answer is. Writer/director Castille Landon doesn’t have a single idea that hasn’t already been done in Meatballs, Little Darlings, Indian Summer, or a dozen other comedies set at summer camps. The screenplay feels like it was generated by AI, so utterly lacking in originality and depth is it. The leads – plus D’Angelo, Levy, and Haysbert – are capable of delivering so much more than they’re given a chance to here.

Making the problem even more noticeable is that they’re all good. Each of them is fully committed to the terrible, unfunny material. That just makes you realize how amazing it would be if they were in a smart movie instead. The scenarios are shallow. The jokes are predictable. The characters are cliches. There is nothing solid for the stars to latch onto, yet they come in and do their best because that’s what legends do, doggonit.

They shouldn’t have to, though. They deserve material worthy of their acting skills. Summer Camp is the kind of throwaway nonsense your grandmother who goes to the movies once every ten years sits and giggles at with her knitting circle after church on Sunday. It is not a serious picture. It is as generic and uninspired as can be.

out of four

Summer Camp is rated PG-13 for sexual material, strong language, and some underage smoking. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan