The Best Movies About Summer Camp
Judd Apatow's (Knocked Up, Superbad) first foray into film was with the 1995 childhood classic Heavyweights, so it should be no surprise that it has taken the "Best Film About Fat Camp" blue ribbon. Starring such comedic gems as Ben Stiller, Tim Blake Nelson, Allen Covert, and a young Kenan Thompson, "Heavyweights" centers on a group of overweight kids who get shipped off every summer by their parents only to learn that this year the camp has been purchased by a weight loss entrepreneur who wants to use the camp as his own personal infomercial. Chaos - along with some binge eating, junk food fighting, and makeshift obstacle courses - ensues.
For all those theatre nerds out there, Todd Graff's 2003 film festival hit Camp takes the "Best Drama (Camp)" ribbon. Following a few teenage actor/singer/dancer hybrids through a summer of showcases, audiences are given a glimpse at the fickleness and friendship that comes out of such intense training and close quarters.
Sometimes camp activities can be lackluster. Perhaps camp counselors are just too distracted with their personal lives to realize the free-for-all their organization has become. 1995's The Babysitters Club starred a cornucopia of up and comers (Rachel Leigh Cook, Marla Sokoloff, Kyla Pratt, Scarlett Pomers, and even Schuyler Fisk). The baby sitters turned camp counselors all have a million things going on besides the day camp they run out of their backyard. Claudia has to pass her summer science course; Stacy falls for a much older boy; Dawn has to appease her next-door neighbor and fend off the geeky kid; and Kristy's dad comes back to town - a secret she trys to keep from her close friends and that ends up bringing down the whole camp.
Too Old To Be At Camp
Though it received mostly negative reviews from critics who just didn't understand it when it was released in 2001, Wet Hot American Summer has become the perfect cult comedy classic for those who really are "Too Old To Be At Camp and Just Want To Sleep Around." Set in the early 80s and comprised of improv comics like Janeane Garafalo, Molly Shannon, and Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, "Wet Hot American Summer" is a very specific kind of humor (read: lots of non-sequiturs) centered on one very specific, and very assumed-to-be-universal problem: getting the girl before camp comes to an end.
Losing My Virginity
Along similar lines is the Kristy Nichol/Tatum O'Neal cult classic Little Darlings about two friends who make a pact to lose their virginity during their time at camp. Just chaste enough (and just preachy enough in parts) for the 1980 censors, it's a film that is nostalgic for adults but even suitable for tweens today.
1993's Indian Summer, on the other hand, is one for the older audience as thirty-something ex-campers reunite on the grounds at which they first met over a dozen years earlier. They reminisce, get romantic, and reassess the route their lives have taken.
Camp Gone Wrong
1961's The Parent Trap, 1995's "update" It Takes Two with the Olsen twins and 1998's remake starring Lindsay Lohan feature quintessential "Best Camp Gone Wrong" moments with all three movies featuring a group of counselors and other administrative personnel who don't realize they mixed up their campers.
However, the award for "Camp Gone Severely Wrong" has to go to 1981's The Burning in which a group of pranksters decide to target the creepy caretaker, only he is back at camp to wreak his own havoc. The 2005 update Camp Slaughter isn't much better: stranded motorists stumble across a camp cursed to relive the same 1981 day over and over. Then, of course, there's the classic Friday The 13th (1980) in which young and nubile counselors at Camp Crystal Lake die extremely bloody deaths at the hands of Jason, who drowned 25 years earlier. The latter films are not to be viewed by the squeamish.
For those who never felt they fit into one "specialty" camp or just longed to break free of parents and responsibility for the whole summer, Camp Nowhere is the absolute end-all-be-all of this list. Starring Christopher Lloyd, Jonathan Jackson, Andrew Keegan, and Marnette Patterson, it was a hit amongst the tween crowd in 1994 but has withstood the test of time as future generations also dream of conning their parents out of a couple thousand dollars and escaping to a lakefront cabin to host bonfires, play with fireworks, and engage in mud-wrestling competitions and pie-eating contests. "Camp Nowhere" is a tale about the strong friendships formed during a summer away as kids from all social cliques mingle together and work toward the common goal of outsmarting their parents (and government authorities) by showing off four fake camps, back-to-back, in a movie climax that made countless adults jealous of the level of potential those kids inherently possessed.
Finally, one of the most famous films about summer camp has to be 1979's Meatballs, starring Billy Murray as head counselor Tripper. Other than the obvious summer romances and comic hijinx, the film centers on an 11-year-old outcast named Rudy (Chris Makepeace) who helps his Camp Northstar defeat rival Camp Mohawk by winning a cross-country run.
Story by Danielle Turchiano
Starpulse contributing writer
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