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Happy Campers 2001
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Happy Campers (DVD)
When a summer camp director gets injured, the diverse groups of college freshmen counselors take charge and spice up the everyday routine of the camp. Two of the counselors -- moody rebel Wichita played by Brad Renfro ("The Client," "Sleepers") and super-perky Wendy played Dominique Swain ("Face/Off," "Lolita") -- find themselves irresistibly attracted to each other as the camp falls into chaos over the course of the summer. Also starring Jaime King ("Sin City," "Pearl Harbor") and Justin Long ("Live Free or Die Hard," "Galaxy Quest").]]>
Happy Campers vacillates from being a ridiculous parody of summer-camp life to being a genuine examination of adolescence. Camp counselors Brad Renfro (Apt Pupil, The Client) and Dominique Swain (Face/Off, Lolita) have very different approaches (she's super-perky, he's a moody rebel), but find themselves irresistibly attracted to each other as the camp falls into chaos over the course of the summer. What keeps this basic plot from being completely cheesy is a basic honesty about youth--Happy Campers doesn't shy away from the cruelty, sexual frustration, and general awkwardness of being a teen. Despite its inconsistencies of tone, the movie is a more compelling portrait of adolescence than any John Hughes movie, and the attractive, likable cast--also featuring James King (Pearl Harbor) and Emily Bergl (The Rage: Carrie 2)--will keep you engaged. --Bret Fetzer
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Top customer reviews
I have just finished rewatching through my Daniel Waters collection and "Happy Campers" is by far the weakest of the lot. Waters, who also wrote "Heathers", "Hudson Hawk", "Batman Returns", and "Demolition Man", generally writes scripts with strong, often far-fetched, plot lines that are enhanced by interesting and often psychotic characters. However, in "Happy Campers", his directorial debut, Waters moves away from the pattern that he established in his earlier works, and produces a character-driven piece the is completely unfocussed and leads absolutely nowhere. It's not that the film is completely without merit, the cast (which includes Brad Renfro, Dominique Swain, Justin Long, Emily Bergl and James King) is strong and Waters' trademark black humour is still there. However, there are just too many characters in the film for proper character development and the lack of focus makes it difficult to remain interested at times. This film promises a lot but fails to deliver and the ending is one of the lamest I have seen in my entire life.
For "Happy Campers" Waters tries to weave "Breakfast Club" themes into a "Meatballs" story. So you get tedious voice-over suggestions about how the artificial bounds of the high school hierarchy can sometimes be bridged by spending a couple months together as summer camp counselors. Like each detention server in "The Breakfast Club", each counselor is an easily identified stereotype. And over the course of camp each is supposed to go through changes, at least that appears to be the premise.
Unfortunately the script has difficulty communicating this process despite an unprecedented amount of voice-over narration. All seven of the main characters get some voice-over time, a device that is very confusing and pretty much destroys any possibility of the movie having any unified theme.
Dominique Swain has the biggest part as Wendy, the terminally peppy cheerleader type (appropriately pictured in a cheerleader outfit on the DVD). Swain is the only good thing about the movie, it is an over-the-top caricature that plays to her acting strengths. This is the type of role Swain should be playing, one that requires self-parody rather than subtlety. She also benefits by relative comparison to James (Jaime) King-whose acting skills are in the Kathy Ireland mold, as well as from being paired with the physically miscast Brad Renfro-who manages to drain all energy from each scene in which he appears. The other four counselors have a fair about of screen time and some lame misadventures but nothing particularly memorable.
Some effort is made to introduce the actual summer campers to the story but none of it even remotely works. "Meatballs" was able to get away with shallow character development because it was basically just a Bill Murray vehicle. Although Swain might have been able to carry the whole thing like Murray the script does not allow this and things never really get going in "Happy Campers".
Waters apparently believed that audiences would react positively to a movie where 90% of the comedy involved sexual references that most preteens would consider moronic. Hey Daniel, did you pay someone to write that Heathers" screenplay for you.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
You have the naive goody-goody, the control freak, and the nerd among other generalizations... it's amusing, watching each oddball personality handle the campers while finding out who they are.
It's a lot of fun, with enough truth and message in it to keep it smart. (...)
If you are a fan of good teen comedies, you should without a doubt buy this movie. Trust me, you will not be sorry.