Roebuck Media, 2013
Reviewed by Annette Ensz
A towheaded ten year-old with an alcoholic dad and deceased addict mom, Eli catches a ride to summer camp after finding himself put in the foster care system. He arrives at camp and gets placed with a counselor, Ken, who volunteered there to impress a client. So Eli runs away. Ken chases Eli down and berates him. They fight each other for half of the week. Eventually, Ken realizes Eli’s past and changes his approach so the boy can feel valued.
In a culture enamored with re-makes and ratings, “CAMP” stands out because it tells the truth. The plot meets reality in harsh and poignant ways. Children who bear the marks of their parents’ faults stare into an unforgiving lens. So do counselors atoning for past sins and businessmen working for profit through seeking approval. Emotions bottled by years of abuse boil beneath almost every surface.
That kind of constant tension makes the film hard to believe at times. A few predictable lines will make viewers’ eyes roll. But then the credits roll, and real people tell the audience that the most horrible and unbelievable scenes found their inspiration in a true story. Children who come to Royal Family KIDS Camp bring along cigarette burns and irrational fears, such as being too fat to know how to ride a bike or facing rejection because of illiteracy.
Movies with overtly Christian messages tend to find their way to the bottom of the bin by pursuing cheesy themes and unrealistically happy endings. Not “CAMP.” Some moments ring so true about Christian summer camp that audiences will laugh out loud. Balancing pride for its church roots with content that shows authentic abuse, doubts and fear, “CAMP” doesn’t pretend to have an easy fix. Instead, the film calls viewers to explore the depths of their sacrifice in loving well and reveals the sobering neglect of foster children in the United States.
“CAMP” teaches that love looks friendliest when it’s okay with looking foolish, when it persists in uncovering scars and then embracing the bearer. It pushes viewers to love without asking anything in return. The world of Christian-made movies needs more like this one.
The film is rated PG-13 (still managing to receive the Dove Foundation’s “Family-Approved” seal) with a run time of 111 minutes. A portion of the proceeds from the film will benefit Royal Family KIDS, Inc., a non-profit that facilitates camps for abused, neglected and abandoned children in the United States. For more information, visit www.thecampmovie.com.