JeffVice's of Sleepaway Camp

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"Camp" is the perfect title for a film that has plenty of campy moments . . . both intentional and unintentional. Also, to say that this musical-comedy is theatrical may be the cinematic understatement of the year. For that matter, so is saying that it's more than just a touch over the top. Still, "Camp" is fun. It will probably appeal to "American Idol" fans, as well as anyone with more than a passing interest in musical theater. (In addition to a Stephen Sondheim song that is performed in the film and included on the soundtrack, the much-loved composer actually makes a brief cameo appearance here.) However, it should be mentioned that, as you might expect in a movie about musical theater, there is a strong homosexual element to the film (many of the film's characters are gay, and some of the content refers to their orientation). The film's title refers to Camp Ovation, a summer retreat in upstate New York that trains young performers in musical theater. Most of this year's campers are regulars, including Michael (Robin de Jesus), who's just gotten kicked out of his junior prom for going in drag, and plain-jane Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), who couldn't even get a date for hers. Enter Vlad (Daniel Letterle), a handsome and athletically talented teen. He's come to Camp Ovation because he wants to learn to act, and he suddenly finds himself with a variety of suitors, both straight and gay. However, he seems to have settled on his acting partner Ellen. Besides, he's got bigger fish to fry. Vlad has decided that washed-up composer Bert Hanley (Don Dixon) will be his reclamation project. Unfortunately, Hanley — who's come to the camp as a counselor only as a last resort — wants nothing to do with that plan or any of the kids. He'd rather drown his sorrows in liquor. The film is predictable, and the rather amateurish camera work leads to some scenes in which characters' heads are cut off. But first-time director Todd Graff makes sure it's well-paced and is played with a light touch. And besides, it's really the cast's film to make or break. To be honest, Letterle's stiff performance doesn't hurt the film as much as it could have, especially when he's got stronger performers to bolster him (most of all, the winningly sweet Chilcoat). As good as she and de Jesus are, though, ultimately it's Tiffany Taylor who steals the show with a musical number ("Here's Where I Stand") that may leave at least a few with a teary eye. "Camp" is rated PG-13 for scattered use of profanity, some suggestive sex talk and innuendo, slapstick violence (hair-pulling and the like) and some brief drug content (prescription use and a near-poisoning). Running time: 114 minutes. E-MAIL:
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Okfor ages12+