tek's rating:

Camp Nowhere (PG)
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Caution: Spoilers!

This came out in 1994. I think I first saw it on TV... sometime. Late 90s, or early 00s, or maybe I never saw it at all. Until 2017, when I watched it on DVD. Whenever I first watched it, it's something I wanted to see because it has a bunch of actors I know from other things. (After watching the DVD, I have no recollection of ever having seen anything that happened in this movie before... but I still believe I probably did see it before. Maybe. I really don't trust my memory.) Anyway, I was gonna put the review under "family films," but now I'm thinking "comedy" is a better fit. It's also a little bit "coming of age," but not enough for me to put it there, I guess. (Edit: when I eventually started a category for "teen comedies", I moved the review there. Though this is definitely on the younger side of that genre.)

There's a junior high kid named Morris "Mud" Himmel, whose father, Donald (Peter Scolari) wants to send him to a computer camp for the summer. Mud has a friend named Zack Dell, who pretends to be a bully, but really isn't so bad. Zack's dad (Peter Onorati) wants to send him to military school for the summer. They also have a friend named Trish Prescott (Marne Patterson, whom I mainly know from Something So Right). Her parents (one of whom is played by Kate Mulgrew, from Star Trek: Voyager) want to send her to drama camp. And finally, there's a friend named Gaby Nowicki, whose mother wants to send her to fat camp (which is bizarre, because Gaby doesn't look remotely overweight). I guess their parents send them to these respective camps every summer, and they all hate it. One day when they're all commiserating about it, Mud makes an offhand comment about being able to rent a camp of their own for the money their parents are spending, and Zack decides that would actually be a good idea. Of course, they'd need an adult to help them pull it off, so Mud approaches a down-on-his-luck, wacky former drama teacher named Dennis Van Welker (Christopher Lloyd) to help them (for a price). He plays different roles to convince each parent to send their kids to four different fake camps instead of the four real camps they were planning on. Of course, it's all actually one camp, which Dennis helps them rent for the summer (and which they name "Camp Nowhere"). But Mud's friend Walter Welton finds out about the scam, and blackmails Mud into letting him come, too. And Walter had invited a girl named Betty Stoller (Hillary Tuck, whom I know from Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The TV show). He has a crush on her, but she seems to have no interest in him. And Betty invited a ton of other kids.

So... various stuff happens. The kids all demand Mud give them the money he was holding onto to get them through the summer, and start buying lots of fun stuff that's obviously going to leave them without money far too soon. (Though somehow, nothing ever comes of that; I seriously expected them to end up starving, or something. But they didn't.) Also they all do dangerous stunts, one of which gets Mud's arm burned. So Dennis takes him to a doctor named Celeste Dunbar (Wendy Makkena) instead of taking him to a hospital. And Dennis develops a romantic interest in her. Also, there's a cop named Hendricks (Thomas F. Wilson, whom I know from the Back to the Future movies), who becomes suspicious of the goings-on at the camp. And there's a romantic interest between Zack and Trish. And possibly between Mud and Gaby. Also there's a debt collector named T.R. Polk (M. Emmet Walsh) who's trying to track down Dennis for some car payments he's behind on. And... most of the campers are of no interest to me, I'm afraid. And some of the websites I linked to at the top of this review mention this movie being Jessica Alba's first film role, but while I did notice her at some point (because I was looking for her), I never noticed her having any lines, or anything, so she was just as random to me as any of the other campers. Although I will say there were a pair of twins (whom Wikipedia informs me were named Ashley and Amber) whose roles I thought were slightly more important than most of the (non-major) campers.

Eventually, the campers all have to work hard to scam their parents into attending what they think are four different "parents days" at four different camps, all at the same camp. (One set of parents were played by Jonathan Frakes and Genie Francis, though whoever their kid was, was just one of the random campers I took no notice of.) But of course, in the end, the whole scheme gets found out, thanks to Hendricks and Polk. Still, there's ultimately a happy ending for everyone.

The movie did pretty poorly, critically and financially, and while I don't think it was a great movie, I don't think it was a bad one, either. It was reasonably fun. (And honestly, I kind of have the feeling that the whole thing is a PG-rated rip-off of a lot of R-rated 1980s teen sex comedies I've never seen and have zero interest in seeing, which I would probably like a lot less than this movie if I ever did see them, even if they're much more popular than this movie.)

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